The COVID-19 pandemic has upended every sector of the economy. Within health care, the pandemic has prompted dramatic innovation but also deeply disrupted the practice of medicine. To meet the demands of the initial COVID-19 surge, and to protect patients and staff, health care facilities across the country canceled elective procedures and outpatient visits. Patients, fearful of contracting the virus, also avoided care for emergent and urgent conditions.
Patients have been harmed by this reduction in access and use, and they continue to suffer and die at home from conditions for which they would ordinarily seek care. While deferred high-value care increases morbidity and mortality, the unanticipated pause in care delivery also provides an opportunity to revisit entrenched health care practices that may not be effective or efficient. In addition to the decrease in the delivery of high-value services that improve health, the delivery of low-value care has decreased. This period presents researchers with a unique opportunity to answer fundamental questions about low-value health care.