Imagining a world without low-value services: progress, barriers, and the path forward

Am J Manag Care. 2021 Apr;27(4):137-139. doi: 10.37765/ajmc.2021.88612.


Low-value services are a major problem in the US health care system. We believe that the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic's unprecedented impact on the health system, and society writ large, offers an opportunity to reshape the conversation and incentives around low-value services. This article explores current barriers to and opportunities for accelerating progress toward high-value care delivery. We examine how financial and nonfinancial incentives, uncertainty in clinical decision-making, and insufficient partnering with patients and families contribute to the delivery of low-value care. We then explore potential solutions, including making it easier for clinicians to forgo low-value services and providing them with actionable information to make those decisions, expanding payer efforts to develop "value report cards," developing measures that map the adverse health and economic effects of low-value services, and training clinicians and health care leaders to engage in conversations with patients about the personal medical, financial, and psychological harms of low-value services.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / economics*
  • Health Services Misuse / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care / economics*