Parents all over Australia are being urged to change the way they think about treating their children’s medical woes.
This comes after doctors have reviewed the medical evidence for more than 60 of the most commonly prescribed medical treatments.
The review was a part of the NPS Choosing Wisely campaign, and the doctors hailed from 14 prestigious medical colleges. Their conclusion is that there are a number of areas of waste and inappropriate treatment, and that these need to be cut and changed to control health spending and improve medical practice.
The Big Changes
Unfortunately, the changes may not seem like a benefit to parents who are being told today that antibiotics are unlikely to be prescribed for ear infections in kids aged 2-12. In their campaign, the doctors have recommended against the routine use of antibiotics to combat ear pain, saying that it makes little difference. The president of the Royal Australian College General Practitioners Dr Frank Jones explains:
“Regardless of whether one or both eardrums are red or bulging, antibiotics do not reduce pain at 24 hours.”
He instead recommended that parents use paracetamol or ibuprofen to control pain, with antibiotics only being given if the child has vomited, has a fever, or is lethargic.
Antibiotics are also the centre of another recommendation, relating to the practice of them being prescribed to babies with a fever. The campaign claims that this behaviour is of little value to the patient and is actually dangerous as it delays parents in going to the hospital because they believe everything is fine.
One of the aims of the campaign is to encourage us as a society to pull away from antibiotic overuse. Around one in 14 children suffer side effects from antibiotics, and they’re so overused now that antibiotic resistant infections are on the rise.
Another recommendation sure to shock parents is one from the Australian College of Nursing, which is now recommending that parents do not give their children paracetamol or ibuprofen when they’re running a fever. They have drawn attention to the benefits of a fever in terms of slowing the growth and spread of bacteria and viruses, saying that only an uncomfortable or distressed child should be given the medicines.
The recommendations relating to the care of children are just the beginning in the Choosing Wisely campaign. The colleges have also made recommendations against routine x-rays for foot and ankle injuries, routine CAT scans for cancers and appendicitis, and routine colonoscopies, all of which they claim have a higher risk than reward.
As well as these, an entire list of what Dr Frank Jones believes are unnecessary tests and procedures have been targeted in the campaign. Dr Frank Jones and others connected to the Choose Wisely campaign hope that the new recommendations will start more conversations between patients and doctors, changing what patients think they require from a doctor’s visit.
The Choosing Wisely campaign may prove to be much more effective than the Government’s own Medicare review, which for a $29.5 billion dollar spend only identified $7 million in savings. By comparison, the recommendations of the campaign, which are more focused on the patient and doctor agreeing not to over-screen and over-treat are likely to result in savings of both time, money and effort.