What are the prevalence and costs of care cascades after low-value preoperative electrocardiograms for cataract surgery?
This cohort study of 110 183 fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries found that 16% of those who received a preoperative electrocardiogram before cataract surgery experienced a potential cascade event; this was more likely among older, sicker individuals who lived in cardiologist-dense areas or had a cardiac specialist perform the electrocardiogram. There were 5 to 11 cascade events per 100 beneficiaries, costing up to $565 per beneficiary or $35 million nationally in addition to $3.3 million for the initial electrocardiograms.
Care cascades after low-value preoperative electrocardiograms are infrequent yet costly; policy and practice interventions to mitigate such cascades could yield substantial savings.
Low-value care is prevalent in the United States, yet little is known about the downstream health care use triggered by low-value services. Measurement of such care cascades is essential to understanding the full consequences of low-value care.
To describe cascades (tests, treatments, visits, hospitalizations, and new diagnoses) after a common low-value service, preoperative electrocardiogram (EKG) for patients undergoing cataract surgery.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Observational cohort study using fee-for-service Medicare claims data from beneficiaries aged 66 years or older without known heart disease who were continuously enrolled between April 1, 2013, and September 30, 2015, and underwent cataract surgery between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. Data were analyzed from March 12, 2018, to April 9, 2019.
Receipt of a preoperative EKG. The comparison group included patients who underwent cataract surgery but did not receive a preoperative EKG.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Cascade event rates and associated spending in the 90 days after preoperative EKG, or in a matched timeframe for the comparison group. Secondary outcomes were patient, physician, and area-level characteristics associated with experiencing a potential cascade.
Among 110 183 cataract surgery recipients, 12 408 (11.3%) received a preoperative EKG (65.6% of them were female); of those, 1978 (15.9%) had at least 1 potential cascade event. The comparison group included 97 775 participants (63.1% female). Those who received a preoperative EKG experienced between 5.11 (95% CI, 3.96-6.25) and 10.92 (95% CI, 9.76-12.08) additional events per 100 beneficiaries relative to the comparison group. This included between 2.18 (95% CI, 1.34-3.02) and 7.98 (95% CI, 7.12-8.84) tests, 0.33 (95% CI, 0.19-0.46) treatments, 1.40 (95% CI, 1.18-1.62) new patient cardiology visits, and 1.21 (95% CI, 0.62-1.79) new cardiac diagnoses. Spending for the additional services was up to $565 per Medicare beneficiary (95% CI, $342-$775), or an estimated $35 025 923 annually across all Medicare beneficiaries in addition to the $3 275 712 paid for the preoperative EKGs. Among preoperative EKG recipients, those who were older (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] for patients aged 75 to 84 years vs 66 to 74 years old, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.28-1.57), had more chronic conditions (aOR for each additional Elixhauser condition, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.14-1.22), lived in more cardiologist-dense areas (aOR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02-1.09), or had their preoperative EKG performed by a cardiac specialist rather than a primary care physician (aOR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.10-1.43) were more likely to experience a potential cascade.
Conclusions and Relevance
Care cascades after preoperative EKG for cataract surgery are infrequent but costly. Policy and practice interventions to reduce low-value services and the cascades that follow could yield substantial savings.
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Ganguli I, Lupo C, Mainor AJ, et al. Prevalence and Cost of Care Cascades After Low-Value Preoperative Electrocardiogram for Cataract Surgery in Fee-for-Service Medicare Beneficiaries. JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 03, 2019179(9):1211–1219. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.1739
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