A methodological protocol for selecting and quantifying low-value prescribing practices in routinely collected data: an Australian case study


Growing imperatives for safety, quality and responsible resource allocation have prompted renewed efforts to identify and quantify harmful or wasteful (low-value) medical practices such as test ordering, procedures and prescribing. Quantifying these practices at a population level using routinely collected health data allows us to understand the scale of low-value medical practices, measure practice change following specific interventions and prioritise policy decisions. To date, almost all research examining health care through the low-value lens has focused on medical services (tests and procedures) rather than on prescribing. The protocol described herein outlines a program of research funded by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council to select and quantify low-value prescribing practices within Australian routinely collected health data.


We start by describing our process for identifying and cataloguing international low-value prescribing practices. We then outline our approach to translate these prescribing practices into indicators that can be applied to Australian routinely collected health data. Next, we detail methods of using Australian health data to quantify these prescribing practices (e.g. prevalence of low-value prescribing and related costs) and their downstream health consequences. We have approval from the necessary Australian state and commonwealth human research ethics and data access committees to undertake this work.


The lack of systematic and transparent approaches to quantification of low-value practices in routinely collected data has been noted in recent reviews. Here, we present a methodology applied in the Australian context with the aim of demonstrating principles that can be applied across jurisdictions in order to harmonise international efforts to measure low-value prescribing. The outcomes of this research will be submitted to international peer-reviewed journals. Results will also be presented at national and international pharmacoepidemiology and health policy forums such that other jurisdictions have guidance to adapt this methodology.




Brett J
Elshaug AG
Bhatia RS
Chalmers K
Badgery-Parker T
Pearson SA