Background: Internationally, many health care interventions were diffused prior to the standard use of assessments of safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. Disinvestment from ineffective or inappropriately applied practices is a growing priority for health care systems for reasons of improved quality of care and sustainability of resource allocation. In this paper we examine key challenges for disinvestment from these interventions and explore potential policy-related avenues to advance a disinvestment agenda.
Results: We examine five key challenges in the area of policy driven disinvestment: 1) lack of resources to support disinvestment policy mechanisms; 2) lack of reliable administrative mechanisms to identify and prioritise technologies and/or practices with uncertain clinical and cost-effectiveness; 3) political, clinical and social challenges to removing an established technology or practice; 4) lack of published studies with evidence demonstrating that existing technologies/practices provide little or no benefit (highlighting complexity of design) and; 5) inadequate resources to support a research agenda to advance disinvestment methods. Partnerships are required to involve government, professional colleges and relevant stakeholder groups to put disinvestment on the agenda. Such partnerships could foster awareness raising, collaboration and improved health outcome data generation and reporting. Dedicated funds and distinct processes could be established within the Medical Services Advisory Committee and Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to, a) identify technologies and practices for which there is relative uncertainty that could be the basis for disinvestment analysis, and b) conduct disinvestment assessments of selected item(s) to address existing practices in an analogous manner to the current focus on new and emerging technology. Finally, dedicated funding and cross-disciplinary collaboration is necessary to build health services and policy research capacity, with a focus on advancing disinvestment research methodologies and decision support tools.
Conclusion: The potential over-utilisation of less than effective clinical practices and the potential under-utilisation of effective clinical practices not only result in less than optimal care but also fragmented, inefficient and unsustainable resource allocation. Systematic policy approaches to disinvestment will improve equity, efficiency, quality and safety of care, as well as sustainability of resource allocation.