Wasteful Pre-Operative Cardiac Testing Prior to Low-Risk Surgery

By Lalit Baveja and Shivangi Sharma

30 January 2018

Practical Analytic Approaches to Healthcare Challenges

Anesthesiologists perform pre-operative assessment on all patients undergoing surgery in order to identify any disease or risks to the surgery and to plan perioperative anesthetic care to mitigate surgical risk. In patients with known cardiac disease, diagnostic cardiac tests such as stress tests and echocardiograms are sometimes recommended as part of this assessment.

A recommendation from the American Society of Anesthesiologists notes that pre-operative cardiac stress testing is only appropriate for identifying extremely high-risk patients, in whom the results would change management prior to surgery, change the decision of the patient to undergo surgery, or change the type of procedure that the surgeon will perform. 1 The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommends that there is no benefit for routine pre-operative cardiac testing in low risk surgery for patients with no cardiac disease. 2

For this reason, Milliman MedInsight’s Health Waste Calculator identifies pre-operative cardiac testing for patients undergoing low- or moderate-risk non-cardiac procedures (e.g., surgery cataract, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, corneal transplant, and removal of tonsils) as wasteful. We applied the Health Wast Calculator pre-operative testing measure for one of our clients, a commercial health plan with approximately 850,000 members, using claims data from calendar year 2012. As shown in Figure 1, 2.2% of the 5,120 pre-operative cardiac testing services were wasteful, at a cost of $88,000. Hence, it is recommended that clinicians perform pre-operative evaluation appropriately and reduce distress among patients.

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It is important to note that claims data alone allows only an approximate identification of wasteful pre-operative cardiac testing. Even so, we were able to confirm instances of pre-operative testing for our client that could help it potentially avoid healthcare costs in the absence of benefit.

For more information on how to identify wasteful services, visit the MedInsight Health Waste Calculator web page.

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