Keeping Health Care Affordable: Avoid these 5 wasteful treatments. We all need to do our part to keep health care costs in line and insurance premiums affordable.
May 23, 2011 — A study commissioned by the National Physicians Alliance (NPA), a 5-year-old organization with 20,000 members, has come up with lists of procedures in primary care that do little if anything to improve outcomes but waste limited healthcare dollars. Ultimately it is all of us paying for health insurance who bear the financial burden of this misuse.
Many routine treatments not only squander money but also expose patients to risks. False-positive results of cardiac testing, for example, "are likely to lead to harm through unnecessary invasive procedures, overtreatment, and misdiagnosis."
Here are examples of the five most wasteful procedures:
- diagnostic imaging (MRI) for patients with low back pain — but with no warning flags, such as severe or progressive neurologic deficits — within the first 6 weeks;
- dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry screening for women younger than 65 years or men younger than 70 years with no risk factors;
- annual electrocardiography or any other cardiac screening for asymptomatic, low-risk patients;
- using inhaled corticosteroids to control asthma;
- prescribing antibiotics for pharyngitis unless a patient tests positive for streptococcus.
The study used two different groups of primary care physicians, 255 in total, to evaluate the lists. The final lists received overwhelming strong support from physicians.