Medical Imaging Doing low-valuetests could potentially harm a patient both physically andfinancially, the JAMA study found. (Photo: Shutterstock)

|

A new study published in the Journal of the American MedicalAssociation finds that patients who receive certain kinds oftesting may bew more likely to receive additional–and possiblyunnecessary–health care services.

|

Per the JAMA study, low-risk patients who received either achest radiograph, an electrocardiogram, or a Papanicolaou testwithin a certain period of time after their annual health exam weremore likely to schedule follow-ups with specialists, diagnostictests and procedures.

|

Related: 5 low-value health care procedures account for $25Bin consumer spending

|

Doing these tests — which are considered to be of low value byChoosing Wisely Canada, a campaign against unnecessary testing —could potentially harm a patient both physically and financially,the JAMA study found. For instance, the study citedother research showing that the cost of these additional tests was$565 per patient.

|

"False-positive screening test results can lead to more invasiveprocedures, such as bronchoscopy, cardiac catheterization, orcolposcopy. Rarely, low-value screening tests may lead to majorsurgery, with the potential for life-limiting complications," wrotethe study's authors, a group of American and Canadian physicians."Therefore, in discussing the risks and benefits of screening testswith low-risk patients, physicians should help patients weigh thepotential for harm against uncertain benefit."

|

Groups like Choosing Wisely focus on the potential health sideeffects of unnecessary as opposed to the financial effects, andthis particular study shows how frequently patients follow-up withadditional testing, wrote Timothy Anderson and Grace Lin, doctorsat the Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center and the University ofCalifornia, respectively, as part of an invited commentary.

|

"Efforts to reduce low-value testing through emphasis solely oncost savings are unlikely to be prioritized by fee-for-servicehealth systems or physicians who may stand to lose revenue or bypatients who may perceive these efforts as rationing," Anderson andLin wrote. "Research accurately characterizing the potentialdownstream benefits and harms of testing is an important avenue toreframe efforts to reduce low-value testing in a patient-centeredmanner."

|

The JAMA study pulled data from administrative health databasesin Ontario, Canada; researchers selected patients who had an annualhealth exam between 2012 and 2016. It comes amidst other researchshowing that low-value care costs the U.S. health care systembetween $75.7 billion and $101.2 billion a year.

|

Both the JAMA study and the commentary noted, however, that theycould only assume that the three tests — the chest radiograph,electrocardiogram, and Papanicolaou test — taken during an annualexam were done for screening purposes. It is entirely possiblethose patients need to take those tests.

|

"However, if even a portion of the tests were for screeningpurposes, the authors' findings provide useful information topatients and physicians on how frequently screening tests may leadto a care cascade," Anderson and Lin wrote.

|

Read more: 

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

David Thomas

I'm a reporter covering the business of law, with an emphasis on national and global law firms for The American Lawyer, Law.com and other ALM publications.