Impact of low-value care received by Medicare beneficiaries outside of their health systems

The topic is important as too much resource and funds may be being spent on care with little return. Eighty-one percent of combined low value care was by out of network clinicians of which 90% was by specialists. There is some issues here. If I can find more detail, I will revise this short blurb.

The impact of low-value care received by Medicare beneficiaries outside of their health systems (, Timothy Dean.

Results from a new study conducted by a team of researchers at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital was published in the August issue of Health Affairs. The study reveals a substantial portion (nearly half) of low-value care being received by Medicare beneficiaries happens outside of their health systems.

The study also revealed factors such as advanced age put beneficiaries at higher risk of receiving this type of care. Low-value care is defined as medical services offering little or no benefit. For example, prostate cancer screening is considered low-value for men older than age 75 who have no history of prostate cancer.

Policy makers and payers are increasingly holding health systems accountable for the cost and quality of the services they provide to their beneficiaries. Typically, this is done through the use of financial incentives (?) administered by accountable care organizations (ACOs) and regardless of where the care originates. But low-value care remains common. Beneficiaries receiving it outside of their health systems pose a particular challenge for systems seeking to reduce spending and improve health outcomes.

Lead author on the study, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham’s Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary CareIshani Ganguli, MD, MPH . . .

“Understanding the scope and origins of out-of-system, low-value care use may help health system leaders design and implement effective interventions to reduce spending and harms to their attributed beneficiaries.

“To this end, we sought to answer two main questions,” the research team wrote in the paper. “First, how much of low-value care use and spending by these beneficiaries originates outside of their health system, and from which types of clinicians? And second, which beneficiaries are at greater risk of receiving out-of-system, low-value care?”

The study team included Elliott Fisher, MD, MHP, a professor of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, medicine, and community and family medicine at Geisel.

To accomplish this, the investigators used national Medicare claims data for fee-for-service beneficiaries ages 65 and older in 595 U.S. health systems, measured across 30 of the most common low-value services during 2017-18.

They found that 43% of low-value services received by the beneficiaries originated from out-of-system clinicians: 38% from specialists, 4% from primary care physicians, and 1% from advanced practice clinicians.

Recipients of low-value care who were older (age 75-plus), male, white, rural-residing, more medically complex, had less continuity of care, and were attributed to a system with lower market share were more likely than other beneficiaries to receive that low-value care outside of their system.

However, the ACO status of a beneficiary’s attributed system (that is, the percentage of that system’s physicians participating in an ACO contract) was not associated with the beneficiary’s likelihood of receiving low-value care out of system. The researchers wrote . . .

“Our results provide insights on the magnitude and sources of out-of-system, low-value care, which could inform health systems’ efforts to reduce the use of these often costly, potentially harmful, and generally avoidable services.

Given the threat of out-of-system, low-value care to accountable care goals,” health system leaders might consider extending low-value care reduction interventions outside of system walls,” they wrote. “These interventions might include things like referral network management, patient education, and increased access to high-value, in-system specialists.”

More information: Ishani Ganguli et al, Who’s Accountable? Low-Value Care Received By Medicare Beneficiaries Outside Of Their Attributed Health Systems, Health Affairs (2023). DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2022.01319

Low-value Care, Lown Institute

Who’s Accountable? Low-Value Care Received By Medicare Beneficiaries Outside Of Their Attributed Health Systems, Health Affairs