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
Date Written: January 5, 2013
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.
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