Most of us are familiar with the magic of cult-classic “As Seen on TV” products, from the Snuggie to the ShamWow. You may even have one or two late night purchases stored away somewhere waiting for your next white elephant party, or in the very rare case, still in use.
“One-click” purchasing options make it easier than ever to buy with these items with the conviction that they will provide value to your life. Then, when you have to get your budget under control, it becomes necessary to eliminate all nonessential spending. So long to the breakfast sandwich maker and the Darth Vader shower head, only adulting purchases allowed.
But it is not always easy to identify what is essential, a gadget that is hilarious and superfluous to one person may make it possible for another person to function. The banana slicer looks silly to a someone who has two hands or who can uncurl their fingers to manipulate a knife. The shower foot cleaner seems like a waste of space, unless you can’t bend over.
Health care services can work the same way, the majority of services are necessary and “worth the purchase,” but there are also services that shouldn’t be provided widely because the potential for harm or lack of benefit sometimes outweigh the advantages. They are considered low value health care and were originally identified by doctors and specialty societies across the U.S. These services cost money, are frequently overused, and can sometimes result in physical and mental harm in addition to financial harm, like automatically prescribing opioids for back pain, which can lead to addiction.
The good news is that we can remove the “one-click order” button for providers by building in pop-up messages in their electronic medical record systems when low value care services are identified and should be considered further before ordering. However, like the gadgets mentioned above, there are services classified as low value care that are actually necessary for some patients. We as consumers should be aware of the potential to receive low value care and have conversations with our providers to weigh the pros and cons of receiving services on the list. The most important thing is for you and your provider to have the conversation to determine what’s best for you.
CIVHC recently released a Low Value Care in Colorado Report identifying the top low value services in the state and showing that health insurance payers and patients spend $140 million dollars annually for this care. The analysis provides a high-level understanding of how low value care is impacting Coloradans and helps start the conversation among health care stakeholders and patients to create meaningful interventions to reduce low value services. CIVHC can provide doctors, payers and communities more detailed low value care information their specific population by contacting CIVHC at ColoradoAPCD@civhc.org.
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