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Reducing the use of ineffective health care interventions. CHERE Working Paper 2010/5

Listed author(s):
  • Gisselle Gallego
  • Marion Haas


    (CHERE, University of Technology,Sydney)

  • Jane Hall


    (CHERE, University of Technology,Sydney)

  • Rosalie Viney


    (CHERE, University of Technology,Sydney)

This report covers international and Australian models for reducing the use of ineffective interventions, also described as disinvestment. Disinvestment is a development of Health Technology Assessment (HTA). Conventionally HTA has focussed on the introduction of new technologies. Although medical technology is advancing rapidly, there remain very many technologies in use which have not been subject to formal HTA. This has stimulated a growing interest in disinvestment. This review identified a number of case studies and pilot projects. There is limited information available on the mechanisms used, and no rigorous evaluations of their impact. The most developed model is that of NICE which has recently embarked on providing guidance for disinvestment. A number of technologies have been reviewed;but there is limited information available on how these were identified, how disinvestment is implemented, or what the effect has been. There is substantial resistance to any active disinvestment. Across the various case studies, appraisal of candidate technologies seems most likely to be triggered by expert opinion. In Australia, disinvestment is also generally passive. Technologies may be removed from funding or reimbursement if new research demonstrating harms or inefficacy becomes public. More generally, technologies fall into disuse, and are gradually replaced by new or improved technologies. Even when guidelines or funding rules are changed, there is generally continued use of an existing technology. This review has found that active disinvestment has generally been removal of funding for ineffective and/or unsafe technologies, usually initiated by new evidence of inefficacy or harm. Disinvestment is more likely to be passive, ie driven by changes in medical practice, as a procedure or treatment gradually falls out of use over time. There are very few instances of disinvestment, or appraisal for disinvestment, driven by considerations of cost-effectiveness. There are considerable difficulties implementing disinvestment in ineffective health care practices. One area of difficulty is an appropriate mechanism for identifying candidate technologies for appraisal. No explicit processes were identified, although there are a number of published criteria for prioritising candidates. The US is embarking on a major new program of HTA, termed Comparative Effectiveness Research. The list of priority topics for appraisal was developed by the Institute of Medicine, using nominations from health professionals, consumer advocates, policy analysts and others. The development of the candidate topics was a major exercise in itself. Studies of medical practice variations can also be used to identify candidate topics for appraisal. To date, there has been relatively little systematic investigation into practice variations in Australia. The availability of rich data sets which allow analysis on the basis of small areas is essential to research in this field, as is the research capacity to allow rigorous analysis. Program Budgeting and Marginal Analysis is a technique which uses HTA methods to drive disinvestment and reinvestment. It is a relatively resource-intensive activity, and requires clinicians to identify activities for disinvestment. Another area of difficulty arises because there are few or no incentives for clinicians in disinvestment. Thus reinforces the problems of identifying technologies for appraisal. As disinvestment will create losses, to clinicians, to consumers and to providers of the technology, there will be strong resistance to any active withdrawal of funding. At the same time, the additional benefits and/or savings from any disinvestments may not be realised for a considerable period of time and there is a risk that, for some products,interventions or services, cost savings, in particular, may not be realised. This increases the cost of pursuing disinvestment. Both HTA and disinvestment can be seen in a much broader context, that is the challenge is to ensure that the additional health spending brings commensurate benefits ? ensuring health system efficiency. Although there is considerable interest in disinvestment, there are problems in identifying which technologies should be considered for disinvestment, and strong incentives to retain existing technologies. Disinvestment does occur, but generally as a result of existing treatments or other interventions falling into disfavour. An alternative approach to proactive disinvestment of specific technologies is to encourage more rapid change in medical practice. There are various strategies for health care reform which can be categorised as changing provider information, such as through the use of clinical guidelines, or the results of practice variations studies; changing incentives, though different payments for clinicians and other providers, or specifically targeted incentives; changing consumer behaviour, by providing more information with or without financial incentives; or changing the structures of health service delivery to provide organisational support and incentives for more efficient purchasing of care.

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Paper provided by CHERE, University of Technology, Sydney in its series Working Papers with number 2010/5.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
Handle: RePEc:her:chewps:2010/5
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  1. Haas, Marion & Viney, Rosalie & Kristensen, Elizabeth & Pain, Charles & Foulds, Kim, 2001. "Using programme budgeting and marginal analysis to assist population based strategic planning for coronary heart disease," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 173-186, March.
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