ACP and Consumer Reports present new patient education resources

A unique patient education collaboration announced April 19 at Internal Medicine 2012 in New Orleans pairs the largest medical-specialty group in the United States with the world’s largest independent product-testing organization.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) and Consumer Reports introduced a series of High Value Care resources intended to help patients understand the benefits, harms, and costs of tests and treatments for common clinical issues. The resources will be derived from ACP's evidence-based clinical practice recommendations published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

"We are excited to work with Consumer Reports to extend the reach of ACP's High Value, Cost-Conscious Care Initiative to patients," said Steven Weinberger, MD, FACP, executive vice president and CEO of ACP, in a prepared statement. "ACP began this initiative two years ago to help physicians provide the best possible care to their patients while simultaneously reducing unnecessary costs to the healthcare system. The High Value Care resources will help patients understand the benefits, risks, and appropriateness of tests and treatment options for common clinical issues so that they can make informed decisions about how to improve their health."

ACP and Consumer Reports also unveiled the initial pieces of the High Value Care series, two patient brochures about diagnostic imaging for low back pain and oral medications for type 2 diabetes. The resources will be available on the websites of ACP, Consumer Reports and Annals of Internal Medicine.

"We are pleased and excited to have the American College of Physicians as a partner in this sustained effort," said John Santa, MD, MPH, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. "We are jointly committed to putting the brakes on over-testing and over-treatment and we agree that consumers will benefit when either patients or doctors initiate conversations about these delicate issues."

The organizations said they chose the initial topics because they are frequently experienced by patients:

  • Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for a patient to see a physician, and many patients with low back pain receive routine imaging. However, in its evidenced-based clinical practice guideline, ACP found strong evidence that routine imaging for low back pain with X-ray or advanced imaging methods such as CT scan or MRI does not improve the health of patients.

  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, which affects 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population. In its evidenced-based clinical practice guideline, ACP found that metformin is more effective, less expensive and has fewer adverse effects compared to other oral drugs as initial drug therapy for type 2 diabetes. The guideline also notes that metformin reduces body weight and improves cholesterol profiles.

“What’s really driving the initiative is to optimize the quality of care, said Weinberger. Moreover, he noted that physicians hold a professional responsibility “to reduce areas of overuse and misuse of care. “

“As we looked at this, it became clear that what we need to educate physicians about also needs to have a component related to education of patients,” Weinberger explained. “Patients are clearly one of the audiences for our High Value, Cost Conscious Care campaign, and it is therefore important to have the appropriate vehicle to get information to them. Consumer Reports was an absolutely wonderful opportunity for us.”

Consumer Reports is one of the 10 largest magazines in the United States with 4 million paying subscribers every month, and is the largest paid content website in the world with 3.3 paying online subscribers, according to a spokesman for the publication.

Kevin McKean, editorial director of Consumer Reports, said the publication has a history of significant healthcare reporting in response to the enormous challenges faced by the industry, and that recognition carries forward through today. “Regardless of whether healthcare reform itself manages to survive, people are going to need more – not less – information, and better – not spottier -- information,” he said. “And while the supply of health information has grown over the years, I’m not sure the quality has kept up…and it may have declined.”

McKean also praised ACP for its willingness to confront cost issues associated with healthcare. “In a perfect world, no patient or physician would ever have to consider cost when evaluating [care] options. But, as everyone knows, in the real world there are millions of patients who have to consider cost through no fault of their own…Increasingly, medicine has to be a partnership between the experts and the person who will be the beneficiary of that care.”

In addition to producing patient education brochures and video versions of the High Value Care content, Consumer Reports plans to publish information about the clinical topics in Consumer Reports magazine, the Consumer Reports On Health newsletter, and on the publication's website.

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