Could your medical tests actually be unnecessary?

The Choosing Wisely campaign encourages well-informed conversations around your options.

By The Council of Medical Colleges
Knee or back a bit sore? Headache that's lingering? Sore throat that feels like you're swallowing glass?
If you're tempted to ask your doctor to send you for an x-ray or scan, or prescribe antibiotics, it's worth thinking it through first.
These days there are a large number of tests, treatments and procedures that you can have if you feel unwell, or worry that something may be wrong.
But just because these options are available, it doesn't mean we should always use them. Some tests, treatments and procedures provide little benefits, and in some cases, they may even cause harm.
Choosing Wisely is a global initiative involving consumers, doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other health professional groups. The campaign aims to promote a culture where low value and inappropriate clinical interventions are avoided, and patients and health professionals have well-informed conversations around their treatment options, leading to better decisions and outcomes.
The Council of Medical Colleges (CMC) is facilitating the initiative in New Zealand as part of their commitment to improving the quality of care for all patients.

What to ask:

These questions can help you make sure you end up with the right amount of care – not too much and not too little. As each situation is unique, a discussion with your health professional can help you develop a healthcare plan.
Do I really need this test / procedure?
Tests may help you and your doctor or other healthcare professionals determine the problem. Procedures may help to treat it.
Understanding why your doctor is considering a test – and weighing up the benefits and risks – is always advisable, and is every patient's right.
What are the risks?
If you have – or don't have – the test/procedure, what is likely to happen? Are there potential side effects? What are the chances of getting results that aren't accurate? Could that lead to more testing or another procedure?
Are there simpler, safer options?
Sometimes all you need to do is make lifestyle changes, or there may be an alternative test or treatment that might deliver useful information, while reducing any potential negative impact on you.
What happens if I don't do anything?
Ask if your condition might get worse – or better – if you don't have the test or procedure right away.
The Choosing Wisely website includes resources and information on:
  • Allergies and allergic reactions
  • Tests before surgery
  • Back, knee and ankle x-rays
  • Using antibiotics
  • Blood tests
  • Coughs, colds and sore throats
  • Dementia
  • Ear infections
  • Electrocardiograms (ECGs)
  • End of life care
  • Reviewing and using medicines
Find out more at