Nine medical specialty boards are recommending that doctors perform fewer of the 45 most common tests and procedures as part of the Choosing Wisely campaign created by the ABIM Foundation. Procedures that should be cut back include CT scans for people who have only fainted, stress test imaging for people with no history of cardiac symptoms and antibiotics for sinusitis.

Each of the nine medical specialty boards put out its own list of five things both physicians and patients should question in an attempt to get both patients and doctors to reduce using unnecessary procedures.

If this initiative and initiatives like this do end up reducing unnecessary treatments in the US health care system, it could bring down overall health care costs. There is always some significant amount of unneeded procedures in any system of this size, and because of rising costs, the medical industry is being encourage to find and implement more efficient practices.

With that said it is important to remember the true reason American health care is so expensive is not because Americans demand too much of it. Attempts to get patients to choose to consume less unnecessary health care either through education programs like this, high deductible insurance plans or the excise tax on employer-provided insurance benefits will never bring our health care spending even close to international norms.

The real problem is that the price we pay for identical medicines, tests and procedures is radically higher than any other first world country. Eliminating waste so that the United State only uses MRIs when it is actually necessary will save some money, but as long as we are paying ten times as much for each MRI as other countries, our overall spending will remain out of control.

Comparative health care costs, US vs Other

US vs Other Nations in Health Care Costs (Source: Kaiser)