ACC/AHA to Assess Value in Practice Guidelines, Performance Measures

Contact: Rachel Cagan,, 202-375-6395

Washington, D.C. (March 27, 2014) – Citing accelerating healthcare costs and finite resources, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association announced they will begin incorporating value assessments into their clinical documents. 

The ACC and AHA elaborated on their decision, outlining the reasons for adding value assessments, reviewing the economic concepts associated with such assessments, and proposing a value ranking system in the ACC/AHA Statement on Cost/Value Methodology in Guidelines and Performance Measures.  In addition, they highlighted future directions and needs.

“There is growing recognition that a more explicit, transparent, and consistent evaluation of health care value is needed,” stated Paul Heidenreich, MD, writing committee co-chair and Vice-Chair for Quality, Clinical Affairs and Analytics in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. “These value assessments will provide a more complete examination of cardiovascular care, helping to generate the best possible outcomes within the context of finite resources.”

The societies’ historical policy has been to only explicitly consider clinical efficacy and outcomes when drafting practice guidelines and performance measures.  The document highlights that a “proposed level of value” will be added, with categories that include “high value”, “intermediate value”, “low value”, “uncertain value”, and “value not assessed.”  The level of value will be accompanied by a level of evidence ranking (A,B,C) that shows the type of information used to make the value decision.
To determine the level of value, the societies propose using the “quality-adjusted life-year” (QALY), a standard outcomes measure in economic evaluation. They further suggest utilizing the World Health Organization’s cost-effectiveness benchmark—three times a country’s GDP per capita—as an upper threshold.  Using this benchmark in the U.S. system, treatments that have a cost-effectiveness ratio of $150,000/QALY or more would be considered low value.

Illustrating the need for more careful resource allocation, the statement cites data  about increases in healthcare spending.  According to data from the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, U.S. per capita spending doubled between 1997 and 2010 and now consumes 17.9% of the GDP. At the state level, spending for Medicaid now surpasses that of all funding spent on education for kindergarten through 12th grade.

In addition, the statement cites the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which has for decades documented significant regional variations in care without substantial differences in health outcomes. 

While the statement provides compelling data on the need for change, it acknowledges the challenges involved in conducting value assessments. For example, treatment costs change over time and vary by location, complicating the evaluation process. Additionally, there is no national consensus about the extent to which cost should influence treatment decisions. Further, a limited number of cost-effectiveness studies exist to provide the necessary evidence base.

Acknowledging these issues, the statement notes that momentum is increasing in the area of healthcare cost-effectiveness and that the incorporation of value assessments in clinical guidance documents may further incentivize researchers, medical schools, and other stakeholders to invest in the country’s move toward greater care value.

“Despite the dearth of cost-effectiveness research, the evidence that is available is informative, and study quality is improving,” stated Jeffrey L. Anderson, MD, writing committee co-chair and Associate Chief of Cardiology, Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. “The hope of the writing committee is that this statement will further encourage researchers to include a value component in their study designs, providing an analysis of resource utilization and cost-benefit in multi-center trials.”

The societies caution that the new value category should be only one of several factors considered when making decisions about resource allocation. According to the statement, the level of value should be “broadly considered” while also looking at the risk-benefit ratio and the level/quality of evidence for the specific clinical recommendation in a specific patient. It adds that providers and society may be willing to pay more if a treatment is the only one available for a rare disease. 

Finally, while the statement notes that the societies will “not yet be prescriptive” in how best to use the value assessments at the point of care, it does provide general ideas on their responsible integration, as well as on their potential benefit to patients and the public.

“The ACC and AHA recognize that payers, providers, and patients may have different views on how to incorporate value into medical care, but they all will benefit from having more cost and value data available,” noted Heidennreich.

The ACC/AHA Statement on Cost/Value Methodology in Guidelines and Performance Measures will be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Circulation and will be available on the ACC and AHA websites, and, respectively

The work of the writing committee was supported exclusively by the ACC and AHA without commercial support.

About the American College of Cardiology
The mission of the American College of Cardiology is to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health. The College is a 47,000-member medical society comprised of physicians, surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The ACC provides professional education, operates national registries to measure and improve quality of care, disseminates cardiovascular research, and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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