10 overused tests waste healthcare dollars

False-positive results mushroom into more unnecessary procedures, medications

The fight against healthcare fraud, waste and abuse could be aided by targeting 10 of the most common medical tests, which collectively waste billions of healthcare dollars a year and can harm patients, according to the AARP Bulletin.

These tests, which providers perform on far too many asymptomatic people, often yield false-positive results that mushroom into more unnecessary procedures and medications, noted AARP, a consumer partner with the ABIM Foundation's Choosing Wisely campaign.

The campaign's lists of overused and often unneeded tests or procedures include yearly electrocardiograms (EKG), imaging tests for back pain and routine yearly physicals.

EKGs are highly vulnerable to waste and abuse because individuals at low risk for heart disease could be 10 times more likely to get a false-positive result than identify a real health issue, AARP Bulletin noted. That likelihood of false positives could then lead to unnecessary heart catheterizations and stents.

And although 80 percent of people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, many older people without back pain can have "terrible-looking scans," according to the article, which cited a study that found people who got an MRI during their first month of back pain were eight times more likely to have surgery than those who didn't; yet they didn't feel better any faster.

In January, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the Choosing Wisely initiative issued a list of five routine critical care practices to avoid. Those recommendations add to the log of more than 220 tests and procedures that teams identified as possibly unnecessary and harmful, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Meanwhile, a new "waste index" can help hospitals identify and eliminate inefficiencies. It can save $1.7 million a year in lab testing and $1.4 million a year in diagnostic imaging testing, among other categories.

For more:
- here's the AARP Bulletin article

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