Sometimes good medicine is about what not to do. Choosing Wisely® encourages patients to talk with their physicians about the necessity of various tests and procedures.

Want to ask your physician or health care provider about a test, diagnosis or treatment but don’t know where to start? The national Choosing Wisely campaign, an initiative of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation, offers guidance to help you talk to your physician, such as what questions to ask and what evidence he/she is using to best treat your individual condition.

5 questions to ask your doctor

Our goal is to promote informed conversations between physician and patient and to encourage shared decision making. These 5 questions may help guide the conversation for both the patient and the health care provider to ensure the right care is delivered at the right time:

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure? Medical tests help you and your health care provider decide how to treat a problem. And medical procedures help to actually treat it.

  2. What are the risks? Will there be side effects? What are the chances of getting results that aren’t accurate? Could that lead to more testing or another procedure?

  3. Are there simpler, safer options? Sometimes all you need to do is make lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier foods or exercising more.

  4. What happens if I don’t do anything? Ask if your condition might get worse – or better – if you don’t have the test or procedure right away.

  5. How much does it cost? Ask if there are less-expensive tests, treatments or procedures, what your insurance may cover, and about generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs.

Click here to download this wallet card with the 5 questions to have handy at your next doctor visit.


The video below demonstrates how you can put the five questions to use during a visit with your doctor.

Consumer Reports, a partner in the Choosing Wisely initiative, offers some additional tips on communicating with your doctor.

Things physicians and patients should question

The more you know, the more prepared you will be to ask your physician questions, understand recommendations and weigh the pros and cons of treatment options—all of which add up to getting the right care to best treat your individual condition.

Consumer Reports is supporting the Choosing Wisely campaign by creating flyers on common tests, procedures and treatments that outline when you need them and when you don’t. These tips can serve as a conversation starter between you and your physician.

Below you'll find the informational flyers, arranged by subject. At the bottom are videos which help explain the procedures in question and provide context for the national campaign.

Use these plain-language guides to prepare yourself for discussions and decisions with your physician. They cover the most commonly used—and overused—tests, procedures and treatments.

For a full a list of participating medical specialty societies and their lists, click here.