Doctor reveals why GPs may offer excessive tests and treatment

Long Lunch 25/05/2018
Photo: Unsplash.

A survey has revealed that one in five Kiwis believe their doctor has recommended a test or treatment that is unnecessary.

Despite this, 20 percent of the surveyed people went ahead with the test or treatment anyway rather than speaking to their doctor about why it was necessary.

We tend to get funded on how much we do.

Dr Derek Sherwood, chair of the Council of Medical College (CMC), admits that there are many factors that drive over-investigation and treatment.  

“I think there are a lot of factors that drive us towards over-testing.”

He lists pharmaceutical drugs, pharma-funded technologies, and the way healthcare is funded as primary factors.

“We tend to get funded on how much we do,” he told RadioLIVE.

Dr Sherwood also suggested that doctors may fear of receiving a complaint if an ailment isn’t thoroughly investigated or treated.

“If you don’t do that test and someone has a bad outcome, you end up on the front page of the paper as a doctor.”

While he maintained that some treatments are necessary, it’s advised that patients have a discussion with their GP to share their concerns or attitudes towards potential tests and treatment.

The CMC is doing its best to combat over-testing and treatment with its involvement in a global initiative called Choosing Wisely. The campaign, carried out in 22 countries, aims to challenge health professionals to have well-informed conversations around a patient’s testing and treatment options.

“If they’re going to be health professionals, they need to be trying to provide or reduce harm to their patients and really provide effective treatment and testing.”

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said consumers should feel comfortable with asking their doctor questions, so they can make informed decisions about healthcare.

"Always talk to your doctor if there are things you don't understand or ask them to give you information you can read. Take a support person if you don't feel confident asking questions," she said.

Listen to the full interview with Derek Sherwood above. 

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.