Will Choosing Wisely® Improve Quality and Lower Costs of Care for Patients with Critical Illness?

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In 2009, a group of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine estimated that 30% of health care costs amounted to waste, including a substantial share from nonbeneficial and often harmful services. Professional organizations and medical ethicists subsequently called on specialty groups to generate “top five” lists of expensive tests or treatments without known benefits. Responding to this call, the American Board of Internal Medicine launched its Choosing Wisely campaign, with the top-five Choosing Wisely lists for pulmonary medicine and critical care released in 2014. In order for the critical care list to have an impact on costs and quality, two things must occur: providers whose practice is discordant with the list must adhere to the list when making decisions, and those decisions must lead to improvements in the quality of care at lower costs. Although the campaign addresses some limitations of past efforts to improve quality and reduce waste, we believe it will do little to change provider behavior. Even if the top-five list for critical care were to change the behavior of providers, its ultimate impact on costs and quality will be lower than anticipated. Here we suggest several strategies for stakeholders to increase the impact of the critical care top-five list, and further discuss that despite limitations of the campaign it is still imperative for advancing best practice in critical care.

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