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Choosing Wisely® Toolkit

5 QUESTIONS to Ask Your Doctor Before You Get Any Test, Treatment or Procedure

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Some medical tests and procedures provide little benefit. And, in some cases they may even cause harm.

According to HealthAffairs (2012), Thirty percent of health care spending goes towards ineffective or unnecessary care. That's about 700 billion dollars a year! Talk to your doctor about which medical treatments are right and wrong for you and make sure you end up with the right amount of care - not too much and not too little. Use these tips to help build your doctor-patient relationship.

Use the following 5 QUESTIONS along with the tools and resources to talk to your doctor about which tests, treatments and procedures you need - and which you don't need.

1. Do I really need this test or procedure?

Medical tests help you and your doctor or other health provider decide how to treat a problem. One way to treat problems is with medical procedures. It can be difficult to ask questions when doctors seem to be in a hurry, but your health is important. Asking for more information can save you and your doctor time in the long run.

Doctor with patient

What You Should Know

Three Health Care Treatments You May Not Need 
This real-life example shows that whether you are an employee, patient or caregiver, more care isn't necessarily better care.

Tips for Talking with Your Doctor
It's about building a relationship of trust and working as a team, but sometimes disagreeing with your doctor can be hard. Use these tips to help build your doctor-patient relationship.


5 question video

Talking with your doctor video

Doctors want to hear from you! See how this doctor-patient relationship truly is a team.

2. What are the risks?

Will there be side effects? What are the chances of getting results that aren't correct? Could that lead to more testing or another procedure? Doctors can't read your mind, it's up to you to ask questions about the details and health care professionals will be happy to discuss any issues more in depth.

What You Should Know

Screening Tests: When You Need Them and When You Don't
Screening tests help spot problems early, when they are easier to treat. Sometimes this can improve your health and help you live longer. But, screening tests have risks. So, it's important to know which ones you need and how often you need them.


More medicine is not always better video

Want to know more? Click here.

3. Are there simpler, safer options?

Sometimes all you need to do is make lifestyle changes, such as eat healthier foods or exercise more. It can be an easier, less costly way to get healthy! However, the only way to know if changing your lifestyle will help your condition (or prevent conditions you may be predisposed to) is to speak with your doctor.
Fruit and Vegetables

What You Should Know

Living Life to the Fullest: Building Healthy Habits
These healthy habits can be combined with any lifestyle changes your doctor recommends. They can ease ailments or even help them disappear completely.

When to Say 'Whoa!' to Your Doctor
A guide to common tests and treatments you probably don't need.


Antibiotics video
 Antibiotics are very helpful for bacterial infections, but can be harmful when used to treat viruses. Sometimes all you need is rest, clear fluids and to monitor your condition.

4. What happens if I don't do anything?

Ask if your condition might get better- or worse- if you don't have the test or procedure right away. This is important information for you to know.
Doctor with patient

What You Should Know

More Equals Better? Not When it Comes to Your Health
Help employees understand the basics of health care, appropriate use of services and quality.

5. How much does it cost?

Save money by asking if there are less-expensive tests, treatments or procedures, what your insurance may cover, and about generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs.
What You Should Know

Ten Ways to Reduce Your Drug Costs
Find out how to reduce your drug costs in this short article.


Understanding Healthcare Costs video



Confused by premiums, deductibles and out of pocket maximums? Let's clear things up with these short videos.

Enrollment Assistance Tools & Resources

Consumer Reports has created FREE enrollment assistance tools and resources to help consumers who are trying to use their health coverage or shopping for new health coverage. The handouts and worksheets explain key health insurance terms and help you understand how those terms apply to you.

Visit Consumer Reports to view, download or print the materials.  


HealthAffairs. (2012, December 13). Health Policy Brief. Retrieved from  HealthAffairs:  

Choosing Wisely Utah's Top 5*:

In Utah, we are working to advance the ABIM Foundation's national Choosing Wisely campaign, created to help patients and healthcare professionals work together to make "wise" choices about care. This partnership between HealthInsight, medical providers, employers, consumers, and health systems is focusing on raising awareness around five common procedures and tests that are unnecessary, and provide little value to patients, in most cases:

1. Antibiotics for head and chest colds caused by a virus in children

If your child has a sore throat, cough, or runny nose, you might expect the doctor to prescribe antibiotics. But most of the time, children don't need antibiotics to treat a respiratory illness. In fact, antibiotics can do more harm than good. Click here to find out why.

2. Imaging (CT scan or MRI) for headaches that occur without any other major symptoms

Many people who experience severe headaches want a CT scan or MRI to see if they're caused by a brain tumor or other serious problem. But most of the time neither test is necessary. Click here to find out why.

3. Routinely prescribing antibiotics or an x-ray for mild or moderate sinus infections

Millions of people are prescribed antibiotics each year for sinusitis, a frequent complication of the common cold, hay fever, and other respiratory allergies. In fact, 15 to 21 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions for adults in outpatient care are for treating sinusitis. Unfortunately, most of those people probably don't need the drugs. Click here to find out why.

4. Imaging tests for back pain in the first six weeks of symptoms

Back pain can be excruciating. So it seems that getting an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to find the cause would be a good idea. But that's usually not the case, at least at first. Click here to find out why.

5. CT scans as an initial step for evaluating minor head injuries in children

Minor head injuries occur commonly in children and adolescents. Approximately 50% of children who visit hospital emergency departments with a head injury are given a CT scan, many of which may be unnecessary. Click here to find out why.

*We had 395 survey completions from 140 organizations to develop Choosing Wisely Utah's Top 5 areas of focus.

How can physicians and patients have the important conversations necessary to ensure the right care is delivered at the right time? Choosing Wisely® aims to answer that question.

Read more on this initiative

If other prices had grown as quickly as health care costs since 1945, today a gallon of milk would cost $48!
30% of health care spending is wasted on unnecessary services, including some that may not improve people's health!

An initiative of the ABIM Foundation, Choosing Wisely is focused on encouraging physicians, patients and other health care stakeholders to think and talk about medical tests and procedures that may be unnecessary, and in some instances can cause harm. Visit to find out more.

Recognizing that patients need better information, Consumer Reports is developing patient-friendly materials and is working with consumer groups to disseminate them widely. For more information, visit

HealthInsight recently received a grant from the ABIM Foundation to advance the Choosing Wisely® campaign. Support for this program comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Ways to Get Involved

  • Come to our UPV meetings (Utah Partnership for Value)
  • Come to one of our upcoming Town Hall meetings (more information coming soon)
  • Distribute Choosing Wisely materials (see Resources tab)
  • Email us with your suggestions at

Early Childhood Resources

Note: You can print these materials for your own use.

Questions/Comments? Please contact Michelle Carlson at or 801-892-6646.

Wallet Cards:

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Utah Campaign in the News

Utah Partners
  • Utah Academy of Family Physicians (UAFP)
  • AARP
  • Zion's Bank
  • ARUP
  • University of Utah
  • Utah Medical Association (UMA)
  • Intermountain Quality Council
  • Public Employees Health Program (PEHP)
Last updated: January 23, 2018.
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