MAY 03, 2021 10:48 AM PDT

Task Force IDs 7 Costly Medical Procedures With No Benefit

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Researchers have identified a surprising number of health screens that are given to patients who may not need them. These procedures are estimated to cost $478 million a year, and deliver little value for this price. Not only are these procedures potentially unnecessary, but they may also actually cause harm to some individuals. These medical services are ordered by physicians often; the researchers estimated that there were over 31 million preventive services that they deemed worthy of a "D' rating.

Image credit: Pixnio

This study, which was reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, was completed by The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is an independent panel that was appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The D rating is for services that have no likely benefit and potential harm. Healthcare spending may be raised by billions by these procedures, and they may be causing serious inconvenience to people that are told to get them.

The services that were identified in this study often included patients that were given screenings even though there was little likelihood they were at risk, or patients who were too old to get a real benefit from finding out about a health problem. There were seven procedures given D grades:

  • Cardiovascular disease screening (rest or stress ECGs) in low-risk adults
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease screening (peak flow or spirometry) in asymptomatic individuals
  • Colorectal cancer screening (colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy) in those over 85
  • Asymptomatic bacteriuria screening in non-pregnant women
  • Cervical cancer screening (Papanicolaou or HPV tests) in women over 65
  • Vitamin D supplements to prevent fractures in postmenopausal women
  • Prostate cancer screening (prostate-specific antigen tests) in men over 74

Since medicare data was used for this work, it's possible that some clinical data was missing that would have justified some of these tests, the researchers noted. As of February 2021, grade D services will not be covered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences, Journal of General Internal Medicine

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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