Unnecessary Medical Treatments Decline in Washington State

Washington Health Alliance calls trend ‘encouraging’
Updated: Tue, 10/29/2019 - 13:37
 
 
  • Washington Health Alliance calls trend ‘encouraging’

Low-value medical services in Washington state decreased from 2014 through 2017, according to a report from the Washington Health Alliance.

The Seattle-based industry trade association’s “First, Do No Harm” report found that unnecessary medical services dropped 10% for commercially insured patients and 24% for those on Medicaid.

“While we don’t have a full explanation for this reduction in low-value care from 2014 through 2017, we can all agree this is an encouraging trend that we hope indicates that here in Washington, we are starting to take action to reduce waste,” says Executive Director Nancy Giunto.

Still, the report found that 51% of the treatments examined were considered wasteful. The study, which examined 47 tests and treatments, said a handful of services accounted for more than 90% of the waste, including opiates prescribed for acute low back pain, annual cardiac screening for low-risk individuals, antibiotics prescribed for upper respiratory and ear infection and too frequent screening for cervical and prostate cancer.

About 870,000 patients received at least one wasteful treatment each year at an estimated cost of $703 million.

The Alliance, which analyzed data for more than 4 million people and 9.5 million services, gathered the data using the Milliman MedInsight Health Waste Calculator.

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