October 12, 2017

Low-cost, high-volume services account for most of unnecessary healthcare spending

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor’s Note

Low-cost, high-volume healthcare services account for a high percentage of unnecessary spending, adding strain to the healthcare system, this study finds.

In this analysis of 5.5 million patients in Virginia, researchers found that services providing no net health benefits cost the state’s healthcare system more than $586 million in 2014. Of that amount, 65% went to low-cost, high-volume services, including: 

  • lab tests for low-risk patients having low-risk surgical procedures 
  • stress cardiac or other cardiac imaging in low-risk patients without symptoms 
  • routine CT scans for simple dizziness 
  • imaging in the first 6 weeks of onset for low back pain that usually resolves itself. 

These findings can serve as a microcosm for the nation’s healthcare system as a whole, the author’s note.

 

An analysis of data for 2014 about forty-four low-value health services in the Virginia All Payer Claims Database revealed more than $586 million in unnecessary costs. Among these low-value services, those that were low and very low cost ($538 or less per service) were delivered far more frequently than services that were high and very high cost ($539 or more).

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