Study: Medicare spends $500M annually on genetic tests with little-to-no clinical benefit

'Testing for this disorder is almost never beneficial,' study author said

Medicare spends about $500 million annually on genetic blood tests for hospital patients that offer little-to-no clinical benefit, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

For the study, University of Michigan researchers reviewed 280,000 Medicare claims submitted in 2014 for genetic tests for inherited thrombophilia, a trait that makes individuals more susceptible to blood clots. The tests cost between $1,100 and $2,400.

When considering hospital patients with a history of dangerous blood clots, called venous thromboembolism (VTE), the researchers found that such patients usually are prescribed medication to treat the clots. Test results for inherited thrombophilia rarely will alter providers' treatment recommendations for such patients, the researchers said.

When considering patients without a history of VTEs, the researchers found no evidence that medication to prevent VTEs will help such patients. Therefore, the researchers said testing such patients for inherited thrombophilia is unnecessary.

Christopher Petrilli, one of the study's lead authors, in a statement said, "More testing is not always better." He added, "Testing for this disorder is almost never beneficial, and in fact can even be harmful because it can cause undue psychological distress for the patient, and unnecessary expense for the health care system" (Sweeney, FierceHealthcare, 11/4; McCarthy, Healthcare IT News, 11/7; University of Michigan release, 11/2).

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