Overuse as a Wasted Resource in Health Care

Healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers, and other stakeholders agree that the US healthcare system is far from being cost-effective. The services are rather expensive while patient outcomes are often moderate or even unsatisfactory. The waste of resources is one of the underlying reasons for the drawbacks in health care. Overuse can be regarded as one of the most serious issues that can and should be addressed.

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Elshaug et al. (2017) define overuse as the provision of “a service that is unlikely to increase the quality or quantity of life” (p. 192). In simple terms, many services are provided due to reasons other than the focus on patient outcomes. For instance, some physicians and nursing practitioners may order clinical procedures (tests) to avoid any possible mistake as this reduces the risk of their hospital being sued. Some healthcare professionals order tests to make their patients feel satisfied as they are sure that this or that procedure is essential in their case although they are often wrong. However, physicians or nurses can order extra tests just to avoid their patients’ dissatisfaction although they know that the services are unnecessary and can be costly.

This overuse is a waste of resources and effort. The issue should be addressed at different levels. Policymakers should come up with regulations that protect healthcare facilities’ and patients’ rights but ensure the wise use of resources. Healthcare professionals and especially nurses should be more professional when communicating with patients and make sure that the resources and efforts used are not wasted. Communication is the key to solving this serious issue. Education and training are also important components of the development of effective solutions.

Reference

Elshaug, A., Rosenthal, M., Lavis, J., Brownlee, S., Schmidt, H., Nagpal, S., … Saini, V. (2017). Levers for addressing medical underuse and overuse: Achieving high-value health care. The Lancet, 390(10090), 191-202.

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