When you or someone you care about becomes unwell, it is natural to want every available test and treatment ordered to ensure the best possible care.

It may come as a surprise, then, if your health professional asks you to wait and monitor symptoms instead of providing a script or referral for a test, procedure or treatment.

However, this approach – known as watchful waiting – may be in your best interest. Some tests, treatments and procedures are unhelpful, and can lead to more invasive approaches that are not needed, and which may prove to be stressful, expensive or even harmful to you.

NPS MedicineWise supports Choosing Wisely, a campaign that aims to let you and your health professional know which tests, treatments and procedures you may need to question.

Recommendations to get more out of medical care

Choosing Wisely Australia is challenging the notion that 'more is always better' and is part of a global move to improve safety and quality in healthcare.

Led by some of Australia's best known medical colleges and societies, this initiative offers recommendations about which tests, treatments, medicines and procedures to question – based on the best available clinical evidence.

The recommendations cover a range of conditions such as allergy, cancer, and deep vein thrombosis, as well as symptoms such as heartburn and reflux.

Over the next 12 months, further colleges are expected to join the initiative and will provide more expert advice on investigating and managing particular conditions.

What does Choosing Wisely mean for me?

These recommendations may improve the way your health condition and/or symptoms are being investigated, treated or managed.

Remember, you can talk to your health professional about their decisions, and question if tests are really needed for you.

Starting a conversation with your health professional

Because starting these conversations can be difficult, here are five questions to ask your doctor before you get any test, treatment or procedure:

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure?
  2. What are the risks?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I don't do anything?
  5. What are the costs?

Asking these questions will help you collaborate with your doctor to work out the most appropriate healthcare plan for you.