Use of Low-Value Pediatric Services Among the Commercially Insured

Pediatrics. 2016 Dec;138(6):e20161809. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-1809.


Background: Claims-based measures of "low-value" pediatric services could facilitate the implementation of interventions to reduce the provision of potentially harmful services to children. However, few such measures have been developed.

Methods: We developed claims-based measures of 20 services that typically do not improve child health according to evidence-based guidelines (eg, cough and cold medicines). Using these measures and claims from 4.4 million commercially insured US children in the 2014 Truven MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database, we calculated the proportion of children who received at least 1 low-value pediatric service during the year, as well as total and out-of-pocket spending on these services. We report estimates based on "narrow" measures designed to only capture instances of service use that were low-value. To assess the sensitivity of results to measure specification, we also reported estimates based on "broad measures" designed to capture most instances of service use that were low-value.

Results: According to the narrow measures, 9.6% of children in our sample received at least 1 of the 20 low-value services during the year, resulting in $27.0 million in spending, of which $9.2 million was paid out-of-pocket (33.9%). According to the broad measures, 14.0% of children in our sample received at least 1 of the 20 low-value services during the year.

Conclusions: According to a novel set of claims-based measures, at least 1 in 10 children in our sample received low-value pediatric services during 2014. Estimates of low-value pediatric service use may vary substantially with measure specification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / economics*
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insurance, Health / economics*
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / economics*
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data
  • United States