$50K grant targets overused medical tests

The Minnesota Medical Association, the state's largest doctor group, has received a $50,000 grant to educate physicians and patients about overused medical tests and procedures.

The grant, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is one of nearly two dozen awarded to health organizations around the United States.

The medical association's CEO, Dr. Robert Meiches, said that the initiative, called Choosing Wisely, encourages doctors and patients to select care that is supported by evidence; does not duplicate previous tests; and is free from harm.

"We stop doing things we used to do that are no longer believed to be necessary, that will help both with costs and will help improve the whole system as far as quality is concerned," Meiches said.

The goal is for physicians to provide the best care for each patient, Meiches said. "Not too much, not insufficient care but the right amount of care is really important," he said. "And what Choosing Wisely is trying to do is that we don't overuse but rather appropriately use things we've been doing for a long time."

Since the campaign launched about a year ago, 25 medical specialty societies have deemed some tests, medicine and procedures as overused or unnecessary. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, says physicians should not prescribe cough and cold medicines for respiratory illnesses in children under 4 years old. Research shows the products offer little benefit to young children and can have potentially serious side effects.

Lists of specific medical tests and procedures that can be overused are available online.

Other Minnesota recipients of the grant include the nonprofit Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement, which tries to bring innovation to health care.