VIDEO: Do More Screening Tests Lead to Better Health? @docmikeevans

Many of you will be familiar with the hilarious and helpful work of Dr Mike Evans and his team. Their white board videos are a great blend of up-to-date evidence, patient perspective, and useful advice.

In Do More Screening Tests Lead to Better Health? you'll find more than just the answer to that question ("No.").

With a focus on healthy, well-feeling, average risk individuals, the video emphasizes that the harms of doing a test (and the sequelae of that test) may be greater than the benefit. This is a tough bit of information to accept particularly if you've already had lots of 'preventative tests' done and have felt reassured by them. However, it's really time to re-evalute their usefulness.

It's not that we should do nothing to prevent disease; instead of wasting a person's time and resources on unnecessary tests, the time can be better spent devoted to support around lifestyle choices that we know will lead to better health. Take a look:

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c7qTsVVxX...

A New Kind of Rounds: Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly CME

Thanks to my local Division of Family Practice and the Practice Support Program (PSP), we were able to put together "A New Kind of Rounds" event all about helping patients find the right amount of medicine. 

Our first event, focussed on Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly, and specifically the harms of treating this too aggressively. Inspired by the Lown Institute's RightCare Rounds and the DoNoHarm Project, we started with patient cases in which the patient's perspective highlighted the burden of treatment and the potential harms of too much medicine.

After small-group case learning, I presented a didactic session reviewing the unique factors that change our approach to management in the elderly, the best available evidence on diagnosis and treatment targets, the current guidelines, and some resources that clinicians and patients can refer to in order to make shared decisions about the "right amount" of care.

The event was well-attended and it was heartwarming to see the level of engagement on this topic from clinicians in our community; we are reviewing the evaluations to consider some changes to the format. Participants also generated an amazing of possible topics for future events, from hypertension to cancer-screening, and anti-psychotic use in the elderly to the annual physical. 

The slides are available here.

Your feedback is most welcome. You can comment below or e-mail. 

My other lectures can be viewed here.

Source: http://prezi.com/ln78vzbqpu4-/?utm_campaig...

Must Watch VIDEO: Intro to Too Much Medicine (ABC Catalyst)

28 minutes. That's all it will take to experience a fantastic overview of "too much medicine." 

Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC)'s Catalyst has been able to clearly describe the problem, share common examples, offer opposing perspectives, and focus on some avenues for change. With guests like Dr Iona Heath (a retired GP and former President of Royal College of General Practitioners at the forefront of the movement to prevent overdiagnosis) and Dr Ranjana Srivastava (an oncologist, who wrote about the right amount of medicine in the context of her mother), it's persuasive, and it is for everyone:

  • newbies: patients and health care providers who are new to the concepts of "overdiagnosis," "overtreatment," and the idea that in medicine, sometimes more is not better will find this a decent introduction
  • keeners: this is an EXCELLENT video to use in your teaching and in spreading the message
  • skeptics: while this video may not persuade you to say "no" to having mammograms or stop ordering them for your patients, for example, it might help reframe the problem: 
    • the main idea is not "never do this test or treatment" but rather: we must combine the best available evidence about risks and benefits of having vs. or not having a test or treatment with the patient's goals, and currently we are doing a pretty bad job of fully informing our patients to empower them to make the choice that is appropriate for them


Go ahead!

 

Could our relentless pursuit of good health be making us sick? Advances in medicine have propelled health care to new heights and a vast array of diagnostic tests and drug therapies is now available. But are we getting too much of a good thing? An increasing number of doctors now say that sometimes, "less is more" when it comes to medical interventions. Some doctors are concerned that resources are being wasted on the "worried well" and that the ever-expanding definition of how we define "disease" has been influenced by vested interests. Could excessive medical interventions be causing more harm than good? Dr Maryanne Demasi examines how our relentless pursuit for good health might be making us sick

*NB if the youtube link doesn't let you view the video from your country, try ABC's website: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4339690.htm*

Want more? Australian media is just knocking it out of the park! ABC's Four Corners did a similar video, Wasted that is also worth a look.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/433...

​Choosing diagnostic tests wisely: Doing the little things well

* RESEARCH FIRST LOOK *

There was such a wonderful response to the Choosing Surgery Wisely paper from Dr Roland Grad and medical students Nicholas Meti and Mathieu Rousseau, that they have submitted another!

Dr Grad's poster at PODC2015

Dr Grad's poster at PODC2015

You may remember Dr Grad, a family physician and researcher at McGill University, from his poster on harnessing InfoPOEMS to find potential topics for the Choosing Wisely Campaign, which he also presented at the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference this year (PODC2015). [click to view the more recent poster in PDF format]

Again, Rousseau and Meti worked with Dr Grad to extend this work and look at InfoPOEMs that dealt with three topics in diagnostic testing: stable TSH measurements, screening mammography, and mid-stream urine collection. Guided by clinical questions pertaining to these topics and the best available evidence, they make a clear case that we need to choose very wisely when considering 'routine' testing. There are some apt qualitative insights provided by physicians reflecting on the practice-changing POEMs (Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters) included in this research, which will undoubtedly help it to resonate with readers.

Please feel free to leave questions or comments below or contact the authors directly. If you would like to submit a guest-post for consideration, email lessismoremedicine@gmail.com.


Choosing diagnostic tests wisely: Doing the little things well

Rousseau, M., Meti, N., Grad, R. Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
 

Introduction
 

As clinicians, do we challenge the appropriateness of our diagnostic test ordering? To achieve shared decision-making in health care, it is up to clinicians to communicate both the harms (as well as the benefits) of diagnostic testing. Within the concept of shared-decision making, there are three core practices: 1) Identifying that a decision must be made; 2) Communicating the potential benefits and harms of options to patients; and 3) Incorporating what is important to patients within the decision. The latter may require us to consider other questions: What would be the impact of this test on the patient’s quality of life? What about the interval between follow-up tests? What is the impact on the economy when diagnostic tests and follow-ups are considered at scale? When clinicians think about ordering a test (or not), we suspect their decision is based on “routines” and “experience”. The point of this post is not to argue against the “art of medicine”, but to raise awareness of new research that can inform decisions about diagnostic testing.

In this post, we highlight the findings of three recent diagnostic test studies. Study findings were disseminated to Canadian physicians as ‘POEMs’. For those unfamiliar with this acronym, POEMs are tailored synopses of primary research or systematic reviews, selected in a process that involves searching over 100 journals. [1] Since 2005, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) delivers one POEM to their members by email on weekdays. As described in a prior guest post (Choosing Surgery Wisely), we identified the following POEMs by analyzing the ratings of all daily POEMs (n=255) collected from physician members of the CMA in 2014.
 

CLINICAL QUESTION: “How much do seemingly stable thyroid tests vary over time? / POEM Title: Stable TSH can be rechecked in 2 years”

In a cohort study, the authors asked how frequently do patients with treated hypothyroidism need to have their TSH measured. [2] From a sample size of over 700 persons treated with levothyroxine, they were able to identify a subgroup that would benefit from less frequent TSH monitoring based on their dose of levothyroxine. They report that patients receiving less than 125 micrograms per day could have their TSH rechecked in two years instead of annually. Importantly, this study highlights that once TSH has normalized, the frequency of subsequent monitoring can be stratified based on dosing.

Monitoring frequency is a relevant issue in the clinic setting. In the absence of evidence, many clinicians assume default rates for all manner of diagnostic test and treatment plans. We read the free-text comments submitted by CMA physicians about this POEM. Some of these physicians expressed surprise at the association between dose and frequency of monitoring. Others reported the following: had they known about this approach, they would have spread out the visits for their healthier patients. This would save time and provide costs savings for the healthcare system. Although not addressed by this study, one physician even raised the question of whether we need to be checking TSH levels at all in an asymptomatic patient.

 

CLINICAL QUESTION: “What are the trade-offs of benefits and harms for women considering a mammogram to screen for breast cancer? / POEM Title: Numbers to help women understand the benefits/ harms of screening mammography”

Welch et al. believe primary care physicians should have more balanced discussions with their patients about the benefits and harms of screening mammography. [3] Their premise is that the majority of discussions focus on the possibility of avoiding death from breast cancer, and do not include a discussion of false alarms nor overdiagnosis. The authors used currently available data from trials of screening mammography to give a range of estimates for harms and benefits with the hope that this information would help decisions about screening. Their results are summarized in this table. Note that the numbers are per-one-thousand women, screened yearly for 10 years:

Figure 1: Estimates of harms and benefits of screening mammography

We received mixed feedback from physicians who read this POEM. Some physicians were grateful to have empiric data to help them in their discussions with patients. One wrote it is “helpful to have the actual numbers presented in such a way that I can share info with the patient when discussing mammograms and screening - always easier when there are numbers that we can look at”, and these numbers “make discussion around breast cancer more objective”. However, others wrote that even though “it is much easier to communicate this information to a patient by simply selecting the age group she falls into, and presenting the numbers for that group [...], I have not yet had a patient who didn't just simply choose the mammogram”. It seems that numbers do not tell the entire story… “because this is an emotional issue, most women we counsel opt for the regular screening”.

The importance of this topic to primary care is high, because as one CMA member wrote “the harms of false positives are seen first-hand in primary care”.
 

CLINICAL QUESTION: “How accurately does a midstream urine culture predict the results of a catheterized urine culture? POEM Title: Interpretation of midstream urine cultures in healthy young women with suspected UTI”

What about the practice of empirically treating suspected urinary tract infection in otherwise healthy women without relying on culture? In a diagnostic test evaluation study, midstream urine cultures with any evidence of E. coli or K. pneumoniae strongly suggested a true infection, while the presence of enterococci or group B streptococci had little predictive value. [4]

Feedback from physicians who read this POEM showed appreciation for the findings and included comments such as this one: “As a walk-in clinic doctor, urinary symptoms are a very common reason for visits. I routinely treat women on spec for these UTI's and don't send their urine for culture unless it is a complicated UTI, the patient has significant comorbidities, or the patient has recently been on antibiotics.”

The practice of empirically treating suspected urinary tract infection in otherwise healthy women without relying on culture was recommended in a recent review by Grigoryan et al. [5] Her group reviewed the optimal approach for treating acute cystitis in young healthy women and analyzed studies totalling 259 397 patients. This showed that “immediate antimicrobial therapy is recommended rather than delayed treatment or symptom management with ibuprofen alone”.

This choosing-wisely-approach to a common infection was perfectly summarized in this comment submitted by another physician: “great info [in this POEM]. Sometimes we just do too much testing”.
 

Conclusion
 

As we reflect on all this, we see that even if one test “can’t hurt”, at scale the impact can be large for publicly funded health care systems. This point has been made by others. For example, Kale et al showed how “routine” diagnostics tests cost large sums of money. [6] Primary health care faces a big challenge in reconsidering how diagnostic testing is used, to ensure better value for all.
 

References
 

1. Grad RM, Pluye P, Tang DL, Shulha M, Slawson DC, Shaughnessy AF. 'POEMs’ suggest potential clinical topics for the Choosing Wisely Campaign. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 2015;28:184-189. http://www.jabfm.org/content/28/2/184

2. Pecina J, Garrison GM, Bernard ME. Levothyroxine dosage is associated with stability of thyroid-stimulating hormone values. Am J Med 2014;127(3):240-245 http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(13)01021-8/abstract

3. Welch HG, Passow HJ. Quantifying the benefits and harms of screening mammography. JAMA Intern Med 2014; Dec 30 http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1792915

4. Hooton TM, Roberts PL, Cox ME, Stapleton AE. Voided midstream urine culture and acute cystitis in premenopausal women. N Engl J Med 2013;369(20):1883-1891 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1302186

5. Grigoryan L, Trautner BW, Gupta K. Diagnosis and Management of Urinary Tract Infections in the Outpatient Setting. JAMA. 2014;312(16):1677-1684. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1917443

6. Kale MS, Bishop TF, Federman AD, Keyhani S. "Top 5" lists top $5 billion. Arch Intern Med 2011;171(20):1856-1858

JOKE: Your Duck is Dead #overdiagnosis

An friend of mine (LL) sent this story to me and I think you'll find it illumniating. No, it's not about quacks!

Your Duck is Dead

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest.

After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away."

The distressed woman wailed, "Are you sure?" "Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead," replied the vet.

"How can you be so sure?" she protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.

The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room. A few minutes later he returned with a cat. The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the woman and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."

The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman. The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!" she cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!"

The vet shrugged, "I'm sorry. If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it's now $150."

Doctors' grade: C- on #ChoosingWisely Test Your Knowledge Questions in CMAJ

Fascinating results emerge from a small online poll of Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) readers. Web polls on the CMAJ site were done over the span of 7 months and the following 12 True or False questions were asked.

Although not scientific, the results tell us that (at least mildly-) engaged physicians (those going to the CMAJ website) like to provide a lot of unnecessary and harmful care, particularly in the area of diagnostic imaging.

Not only do we need more research on why physicians think this way, we also need research on what methods are effective at changing behaviours. We don't know yet if Choosing Wisely-type outreach to patients and providers can improve practice. We think and hope so . . .

See the Choosing Wisely Canada update for more.

EDIT:

*NB: Dr S.P. Landry has a keen eye and noticed an error; for the item pertaining to "All children with head trauma require imaging to rule our fracture and brain injuries" the answer should be FALSE. So, the correct response rate would be 70% on that question, making the overall score of respondents a little less terrible, but still remarkably bad ;)


Source: http://www.choosingwiselycanada.org/news/2...

Rational test ordering in family medicine

It is typical in medical teaching to start an article or talk with a case.

What is not typical about about this Canadian Family Physician (CFP) article, written by Australians Drs S Morgan, M van Driel, J Coleman, and P Magin, is that the case is not meant to teach us how to do something. It is meant to challenge us, to teach us how NOT to do something.

When a 'routine annual health check' involves non-evidenced tests, and abnormal results are found, it leads to further testing; anxiety and other harmful effects of the testing cascade or treatments develop. This is the problem of overtesting and overdiagnosis.

It is best to not order irrational, unjustified tests "just to see" because there are harms of "just seeing." If you order enough tests, there will definitely be abnormal findings, many of which are spurious or clinically insignificant.

Many of those reading know this problem, but we are not always sure of the solutions. Morgan et al suggest and expand upon these mitigating steps:

  • Undertake a thorough clinical assessment
  • Consider the probability and implications of a positive test result
  • Practise patient-centred care
  • Follow clinical guidelines or seek other specialist guidance (*my caveat: if the guidelines are reasonable, free of industry bias, and appropriate for the patient in front of you)
  • Do not order tests to reassure the patient
  • Accept a degree of uncertainty
  • Use serial rather than parallel testing
  • Reflect and critically appraise test ordering

I like the list as it challenges some myths, like "ordering the test will make the patient feel better." Many of the drivers of overtesting explained here overlap with the Contributing Factors piece I'm working on, though I'm inspired that perhaps "taking time" (using a longitudinal relationship to slow down, to do serial testing, etc.) may need to be added to the list.

View the article in the CFP to read more.



Source: http://www.cfp.ca/content/61/6/535?etoc

A summary: How to prevent #overdiagnosis @SwissMedWkly

For anyone who is even remotely interested in the movement to prevent overdiagnosis, I suggest you check out this article, How to Prevent Overdiagnosis, in its entirety.

Dr Arnaud Chiolero et al. have provided a thorough overview of the causes of overdiagnosis, methods to estimate the frequency of overdiagnosis, and interventions to prevent overdiagnosis.

As a teaser, I present to you the summary tables from the article:

We all might argue about the exact contributors to overdiagnosis, but this list (based on a review of the literature) is pretty thorough. Fortunately there is hope to combat the problem, and some specific examples are given:

See the article or follow Dr Chiolero (@swissepi) on Twitter for more.

Source: http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2015-14060/

Testing to the Nth degree

When a healthcare provider orders a test, it may be opening the flood gates for further testing. And it's really really really hard to scramble back and undo an unnecessary test after the fact.

When a healthcare provider orders a test, it may be opening the flood gates for further testing. And it's really really really hard to scramble back and undo an unnecessary test after the fact.

Every week I save articles about overtesting, overtreatment, "right care," how to fix out health system, and so on. Today I present:

Four examples of outrageously unnecessary tests

1. An Egregious Example of Ordering Unnecessary Tests
- Patient: 21 year old healthy male for a general annual exam
- Cost: $3682.98 ($13.09 covered by his insurance), confusion, worry
- What happened: The doctor ordered a tonne of lab tests including some I've never even ordered, a stress test (unprecedented in a healthy 21 year old!), etc.
- Comment: The blog writer is appropriately flabbergasted as basically every test ordered was unnecessary; however, he doesn't take it far enough - Routine Physicals themselves are not recommended; annual exams have no scientific value.
 

2. False-Positive Results From a Diagnostic Colonoscopy
- Patient: a middle-aged man with occasional blood in stool
- Cost: unnecessary colonoscopy, exposure to risks, worry/grief about having cancer
- What happened: Although the primary care provider thought the patient had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and an ano-rectal source (eg. hemorrhoids) for the occasional blood in the patient's stool, a colonoscopy was ordered. It showed a polyp and the pathology was positive for lymphoma. The patient underwent extensive testing which revealed nothing. The diagnosis of lymphoma was questioned and the patient was diagnosed with hemorrhoids and IBS or food allergy.
- Comment: It's not a bad idea to tell the patient what you are thinking and why you suggest certain things:

"After this experience, the patient stated he would have agreed to an elimination diet, rectal examination, and anoscopy if he had understood what information his physicians could have obtained from these initial tests, prior to pursuing a more invasive option."


3. How the CA-125 became a $50,000 blood test
- Patient: middle-aged female given a CA-125 blood test as "screening" for ovarian cancer
- Cost: $50 000 if you include all the sequelae from that first test
- What happened: The doctor suggested being "safe" and using a test that is not meant for screening as a screening test. When the test was slightly elevated, the doctor suggested further tests. Ultrasounds, CTs, surgeries, etc.
- Comment: I can't say it better than the blog writer when he sums up the costs:

"Five months of mounting worry, loss of several organs, and a simmering distrust of doctors and their tests:  incalculable."


4. Stop hunting for zebras in Texas

- Patient: young man hit in the head with a baseball bat, may be given 2nd CT scan
- Cost: more than necessary
- What happened: A young man who was struck with a baseball bat had a CT scan that showed a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH). Dr Watson suggested he have another CT (angiogram) scan to see if a brain aneuyrsm was the cause of the bleed. Dr Jha suggested that perhaps the blow to the head was the cause of the bleed in the brain (duhhh!). Dr Watson was "hunting for zebras," i.e. looking for a rare cause to explain the problem rather than the pretty obvious, straightforward one. He thought he had to "rule out" or exclude the rare diagnosis. Dr Jha applied Occam's Razor,  suggesting that while a rare cause was possible it would be far more likely for the simple/obvious cause to be the case.

"Watson’s rationale for fishing for rarities—“can’t be ruled out”—is unfalsifiable. This phrase cannot be disproved. It smashes Bayes’ theorem and Occam’s razor to smithereens. It is kryptonite to clinical acumen . . .
. . . there is wrong: falsely declaring disease in a healthy person—a false positive. And there is (really) wrong: falsely declaring health in a diseased person—a false negative. . . [M]any doctors have chosen being wrong over being really wrong."

- Comment: To "err on the side of caution" seems best at first blush. But being careful has consequences too. In this case, extra radiation (which increases the chance of developing cancer), potential reaction to CT dye (anaphylaxis, kidney failure), the finding of things no one was looking for ("incidentalomas") and further testing required to make sure they aren't bad things, the financial and time cost of the CT scan, etc.

See the article for an excellent narration of the thought process behind this kind of decision-making.