How do you judge which patient is best equipped to be a Patient Champion?
In the summer of 2017, Consumer Reports launched a nationwide search to recruit and recognize Choosing Wisely Patient Champions. The goal of the search was finding champions who would apply for the role; agree to work with Consumer Reports to publicize their story; spread the message of Choosing Wisely; and join a team of activists.
I was honored to be asked to serve on the Consumer Reports panel that screened Patient Champion nominations.
More than 100 people were nominated, by themselves or by others. My job was to work with five other judges from across the country to review each nomination and then narrow the list to 40 people.
The process was fun but it was also touching to read the stories of each nominee’s struggle with overtreatment and outcomes. Some stories showed that patients avoided overtreatment, while others expressed regret that they got treatment they didn’t need. Here are two excerpts:
“Treatment was avoided because it was unnecessary. This was a case of overtreatment. My doctor recommended a colonoscopy when it was not due for another 3 years.”
“My cataract surgeon insisted on “routine” EKG pre-surgery. The Choosing Wisely website provided me with a lot of ‘ammunition’ to make my argument, but to no avail. He insisted that he agreed with me, but the outpatient surgery facility where he operated insisted on the EKG. I need a specific specialist, so in the end I had to go along. But I learned a lot about communication.”
Choosing Wisely Patient Champion Advocate (CWPCA)
After the panel screened the nominations, Consumer Reports conducted phone interviews and selected the final list of 16 “patient champion advocates.”
These 16 champions are already making an impact by spreading the word about Choosing Wisely and sharing their stories nationwide through Consumer Reports, the media and blogs.
We applaud all the work that is being done and hope employers and individuals are promoting this free resource to educate everyone and anyone on a new way of thinking about treating and over-prescribing.
My work at The Alliance made me an early supporter of Choosing Wisely.
Since the program started five years ago, I have used it:
- As a single woman struggling with migraines (Imaging Tests for Headaches)
- As a newlywed helping my husband cope with a herniated disc in his back (Back Pain Tests and Treatments)
- And now as the mom of a son who has chronic ear and sinus infections. (Antibiotics for Ear Infections in Children)
Like all patients and parents, I have to resist the temptation to seek a quick fix.
“We have this ingrained belief that more is better, including care,” said Bill Adams, who is a Choosing Wisely Patient Champion Advocate.
Choosing Wisely helps you take a step back and understand that overtreatment can hurt instead of heal. The Choosing Wisely goal is to give you the right information to ask the right questions, which has helped me find the right care at the right time.
Aqua-Aerobic Systems Shares Its Story
Employers can also play a role in this effort. Aqua-Aerobic Systems, an Alliance member based in Loves Park, Ill., has championed the use of the 5 Questions Card in the workplace.
Pam Appino, Human Resources Director, was interviewed by Consumer Reports to share Aqua-Aerobic’s experience as part of Choosing Wisely: A Special Report on the First Five Years.
The report notes that Aqua-Aerobic Systems shares the Consumer Reports 5 Questions wallet card with all employees, offers lunch-and-learns and scans materials to share them via email. The goal is to help employees become smarter health care consumers.
The Choosing Wisely report also highlighted the work of The Alliance cooperative in sharing information from Choosing Wisely and Consumer Reports.
Free Resources for Your Workforce
Choosing Wisely offers hundreds of brochures and posters aimed at helping patients talk with their doctors so they avoid overtreatment. You can view videos, campaign brochures and more on the Consumer Health Choices website.
The Alliance offers a selection of these materials aimed at employer needs on our website and as printed materials that can be shared at benefit fairs or education events. The most popular piece for Alliance employers is the “5 Questions Card” that Aqua-Aerobic Systems used with its employees.
Designed to be carried in your wallet, the card lists five common questions that patients are encouraged to ask:
- Do I really need this test or procedure?
- What are the risks and side effects?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What happens if I don’t do anything?
- How much does it cost and will my insurance pay for it?
You Can Champion Choosing Wisely, Too
Employers can champion Choosing Wisely in the workplace by sharing materials or hosting employee education events. For example, when you host a “How to Be a Better Health Care Consumer” presentation from The Alliance, we’ll distribute the 5 Questions Card to all your employees who attend.
To learn more, or to request a supply of wallet cards to share at your workplace, email The Alliance to place an order.
Early in 2018, The Alliance plans to make it easier for all employers to share Choosing Wisely information with employees. Watch for our announcement on how The Alliance will help you continue to champion the cause of avoiding overtreatment.
- Read highlights of one of the patient champions’ work, Campaign looks at overuse of the medical system by R.C. Drews
- View Choosing Wisely: A Special Report on the First Five Years
- Read a patient story – Why Test for a Condition you Don’t Intend to Treat?
- Learn more about Choosing Wisely and Consumer Reports
In addition to her work at The Alliance, Tierney is an active member on The Business Forum, previously serving on the board and acting as senior chair for the ATHENA committee. Tierney also participates in the Advertising Federation of Madison and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network of Madison.
Tierney earned her bachelor's degree of business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with an emphasis in information systems and a certification on the Project Management Body of Knowledge.
Read blog posts by Tierney.
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