Nurses come to the profession with a strong orientation to meet the health needs of patients. In the meantime, they assume greater responsibility in managing the policy landscape. According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (n.d.), nurses engage in policymaking and advocacy on an everyday basis, since they act on behalf of patients and broader communities to ensure the best individual and public health outcomes. Nurse practitioners advocate for a diversity of policy changes, from the implementation of technology systems to the development of health promotion policies and campaigns. Still, the importance of many policy issues remains persistently overlooked. The need to reduce healthcare waste is one of such priorities. The healthcare system produces different categories of waste, overtreatment being one of them. Time has come for federal legislative bodies to propose a universal public reporting policy that will promote transparency in healthcare utilization patterns and obligate hospitals to be more reasonable in managing and using scarce medical resources.
Healthcare waste is an issue of hot concern for many nurses. Nevertheless, its importance is frequently ignored. Simultaneously, as the public pressure to contain healthcare costs continues to increase, reducing waste could become a logical measure in the nation’s striving to promote efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the healthcare sector. The burdensome costs of healthcare waste justify the importance of the policy issue. According to Anonymous (2012), more than 30 percent of what the U.S. spends on healthcare every year could be wasteful. In 2006 alone, the U.S. spent $650 billion more on the same amount of healthcare services compared with other developed countries (Anonymous, 2012). Redundant and inefficient healthcare administration could account for another $91 billion in waste (Anonymous, 2012). Apparently, the costs of waste in U.S. healthcare are close to being enormous, thus rendering the need to adopt a comprehensive policy as urgent.
It should be noted that the U.S. system of healthcare produces different categories of waste. These include failure to deliver adequate care, poor care coordination, administrative hurdles, pricing misbalances, and overtreatment (Anonymous, 2012). The latter represents a matter of the biggest concerns, since it has profound implications for the financial and patient health outcomes. Bentley, Effors, Palar, and Keeler (2008) are right that, apart from the higher costs of medical care, waste also “deflects resources from other desirable social goals” (p. ). This is why it is imperative for nurses to advocate for a broad policy change to minimize resource and services overuse, thus increasing the efficiency and reducing the costs of health care.
The principal causes behind healthcare overuse are rooted in the business philosophy of health care and the financial incentives provided to boost overuse. Mason et al. (2015) confirm that the fee-for-service model has resulted in an unprecedented increase in the volume of services requested and used by patients. The commercial interests of healthcare providers override their commitments to safe and quality patient care (Mason et al., 2015). Legislators and nurse practitioners are in a position to change the established methodologies and obligate health care providers to be more accountable and transparent in their health utilization practices. Given that there is no explicit policy to address healthcare waste and overuse issues, such policy will have to be written from scratch.
The proposed policy change will have to occur at the federal level, so that all hospitals and healthcare providers in the U.S. are subject to its requirements. The plan for the implementation of the proposed policy development will incorporate a number of steps, contacting a federal legislator being the first one. As of today, a number of legislators with a solid background in nursing sit in Congress. Any of them could assume leadership in managing and implementing a policy change related to the issue of healthcare waste and services overuse. Unfortunately, none of the state advocates seem to be suited for this role. Moreover, as the purpose of the proposed policy change is to cover all healthcare entities and ensure that they report the amount and types of services used by patients, it is better if the discussed change is promoted from the top. Also, I did not vote for any individual who could facilitate the implementation of the new policy, but I expect them to be receptive to the issue and become central to the changes in healthcare procedures that will help minimize the scope and costs of waste in the U.S. medical system.
This being said, the federal policymaker who agrees to act on the issue will receive complete information about the types of waste produced by the healthcare system, its costs, and implications for patient safety and health. In essence, the new policy will mandate hospitals to uncover and report the details of the services and procedures administered to patients in an attempt to minimize overuse (Mason et al., 2015). It is also important to create a guiding coalition of nurses, who will monitor the progress of the policy, its implementation, compliance, and effects on the healthcare system. The results will also be made public and invite stakeholders to evaluate the utility and benefits of the new policy at state and federal levels.
To summarize, it is time for nurses and federal policymakers to address the issue of healthcare waste. New policies are required to minimize the risks of services overuse in the healthcare system. The costs of overuse and other healthcare waste have become enormous. Nurses and federal legislators should come together in a concerted effort to reduce the amount of healthcare waste and evaluate the effects of the proposed policy on all stakeholders.
- Anonymous. (2012). Reducing waste in health care. Health Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief.php?brief_id=82.
- Bentley, T.G., Effros, R.M., Palar, K., & Keeler, E.B. (2008). Waste in the U.S. health care system: A conceptual framework. Milbank Quarterly, 86(4), 629-659.
- Mason, D.J., Leavitt, J.K., Gardner, D.B., Chaffee, M.W., Outlaw, F.H., & O’Grady, E.T. (2015). Policy & politics in nursing and health care. Elsevier Health Sciences.
- NANN. (n.d.). Introduction: Health policy and advocacy toolkit. Retrieved from http://www.nann.org/uploads/files/Federal_Health_Policy__Advocacy_Toolkit.pdf.