Newspaper article

Minnesotans Spent at Least $55 Million on Unnecessary Medical Procedures in 2014, MDH Says

Newspaper article

Minnesotans Spent at Least $55 Million on Unnecessary Medical Procedures in 2014, MDH Says

Article excerpt

Minnesotans spent at least $55 million dollars on health services in 2014 that provide little or no benefit to patients but that may have the potential to cause harm, according to a report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

They spent $9.3 million of that amount themselves in out-of-pocket costs, the report also found.

The actual amount spent by Minnesotans each year on unnecessary medical procedures is undoubtedly much higher because the report looked at only 18 low-value health services.

That's a small portion of the more than 450 overused or unnecessary medical tests and treatments have been identified by the Choosing Wisely campaign, launched in the United States in 2012 by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and Consumer Reports.

And that campaign is far from completing its list of unnecessary procedures.

The MDH report, however, marks the first time researchers have taken a detailed look at low-value services specifically in Minnesota.

"This research identifies a significant area of wasted resources and unnecessary exposure to potential patient harm," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, in a released statement. "Providers and patients need to join together to avoid these tests that add needless expense to our overly expensive health care system."

Collecting the data

For the study, MDH officials, with assistance from researchers at the Mayo Clinic, analyzed a statewide database of billing records from medical providers for the year 2014. They looked at 18 low-value services that mainly fall into two categories: diagnostic imaging and disease screening.

The analysis revealed about 92,000 instances that year of Minnesotans receiving diagnostic imaging -- X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -- in situations where such tests are widely recognized as providing low diagnostic value. Most of those situations involved uncomplicated headaches or nonspecific low-back pain.

In such cases, imaging is unlikely to change the course of treatment or management, the MDH report points out. Furthermore, the imaging is not risk-free. It exposes patients to low doses of ionizing radiation, and ambiguous results from the tests may lead to other low-value health services "that place the patient at risk for adverse health events and cause stress and anxiety," the report explains.

The MDH analysis also identified about 69,000 instances of low-value screening for cancer or carotid artery disease (narrowing of the major arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain). These unnecessary tests included cervical cancer screening for women younger than 21 and older than 84, colorectal cancer screening in adults aged 85 and older, prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening for prostate cancer in men aged 75-plus, and screening for carotid artery stenosis in asymptomatic adults. …

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