Doing Better by Doing Less: Approaches to Tackle Overuse of Services

Timely Analysis of Immediate Policy Issues (RWJF/Urban Institute), January 2013

15 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2013

See all articles by Robert A. Berenson

Robert A. Berenson

The Urban Institute

Elizabeth Docteur

Elizabeth Docteur Consulting

Date Written: January 5, 2013

Abstract

Experts have projected that as much as a third of U.S. health care spending­ is unnecessary and wasteful. Of the estimated $765 billion of health care dollars wasted in 2009, a quarter — $210 billion — was spent on the overuse of services, which includes services that are provided more frequently than necessary or services that are higher-cost, but no more beneficial than lower-cost alternatives.

This paper provides a summary of the problem of overuse in the U.S. health care system. The analysis gives an overview of the provision of medically inappropriate and unnecessary services that drive up health care spending without making a positive impact on patients’ health outcomes. It also describes approaches that have already been used to address overuse of health care services and outlines the broader payment reforms needed to minimize incentives to overdiagnose and overtreat.

This overuse of services has implications for both health care costs and outcomes. There is substantial variation in the level of inappropriate use across different health care services. Research shows that the rates at which particular procedures, tests, and medications were performed or prescribed when clinically inappropriate ranged from a low of 1 percent to a high of 89 percent.

Suggested Citation

Berenson, Robert A. and Docteur, Elizabeth, Doing Better by Doing Less: Approaches to Tackle Overuse of Services (January 5, 2013). Timely Analysis of Immediate Policy Issues (RWJF/Urban Institute), January 2013 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2202879 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2202879

Robert A. Berenson

The Urban Institute ( email )

2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
United States

Elizabeth Docteur (Contact Author)

Elizabeth Docteur Consulting ( email )

633 S. Saint Asaph Street
Washington, DC 22314-4118
United States

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