Background: While some research has examined general attitudes about efforts to reduce overutilization of services, such as the Choosing Wisely® (CW) initiative, little data exists regarding primary care providers' attitudes regarding individual recommendations.
Objective: We sought to identify whether particular CW recommendations were perceived by primary care providers as difficult to follow, difficult for patients to accept, or both.
Design: Two national surveys, one by mail to a random sample of 2000 U.S. primary care physicians in November 2013, and the second electronically to a random sample of 2500 VA primary care providers (PCPs) in October-December 2014.
Participants: A total of 603 U.S. primary care physicians and 1173 VA primary care providers. Response rates were 34 and 48 %, respectively.
Main measures: PCP ratings of whether 12 CW recommendations for screening, testing and treatments applicable to adult primary care were difficult to follow and difficult for patients to accept; and ratings of potential barriers to reducing overutilization.
Key results: For four recommendations regarding not screening or testing in asymptomatic patients, less than 20 % of PCPs found the CW recommendations difficult to accept (range 7.2-16.6 %) or difficult for patients to follow (12.2-19.3 %). For five recommendations regarding testing or treatment for symptomatic conditions, however, there was both variation in reported difficulty to follow (9.8-32 %) and a high level of reported difficulty for patients to accept (35.7-87.1 %). The most frequently reported barriers to reducing overuse included malpractice concern, patient requests for services, lack of time for shared decision making, and the number of tests recommended by specialists.
Conclusions: While PCPs found many CW recommendations easy to follow, they felt that some, especially those for symptomatic conditions, would be difficult for patients to accept. Overcoming PCPs' perceptions of patient acceptability will require approaches beyond routine physician education, feedback and financial incentives.