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New Study Finds Hundreds of Thousands of Washington Patients Receive Unnecessary Tests, Procedures, and Treatments

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SEATTLE, Feb. 1, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In a groundbreaking analysis of 1.3 million patients across the state who received a health care service known to be commonly overused, the Washington Health Alliance found that nearly half of the patients received care that is considered low value, or wasteful. That overuse of care amounted to an estimated $282 million in unnecessary health care spending in one year.

The report, First, Do No Harm: Calculating Health Care Waste in Washington State utilizes the new MedInsight Health Waste Calculator from the actuarial consulting firm Milliman, to produce an analysis of low-value health care services across the state. The services measured include 47 common tests, procedures, and treatments that clinician-led national initiatives such as Choosing Wisely® and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have determined are overused.

Low-value health care services, also called overuse or waste, refers to medical tests and procedures that have been shown to provide little benefit in particular clinical scenarios and in many cases have the potential to cause physical, emotional, or financial harm to patients. Preventing harm associated with the delivery of health care is essential to improving patient safety. While harm is not intentional, it is particularly troublesome when it results from tests, procedures, and treatments that were unnecessary.

“This is a pioneering report for Washington state’s health care community,” said Nancy A. Giunto, executive director of the Washington Health Alliance. “Being able to measure specific areas of waste in the health care system is an important step forward. The results are stunning and provide a clear opportunity to educate patients and engage health care stakeholders on areas of improvement.”

Highlights from the report:

This report examined 47 common treatment approaches known to be overused. More than 45% of the health care services examined were determined to be of low value. Approximately 1.3 million individuals received one of these 47 services; among these individuals, almost one-half (47.9%) received a low-value service. 36% of spending on the health care services examined went to low-value treatments and procedures. This amounts to an estimated $282 million in unnecessary spending. Of the 47 treatments and services analyzed, 93% of overuse was attributed to just 11 common tests, procedures and treatments. These include such things as preoperative tests and lab studies prior to low-risk surgery, too frequent cancer screenings, eye imaging tests for people without significant eye disease,

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