A procedure is termed appropriate if its benefits sufficiently outweigh its risks to make it worth performing, and it does at least as well as the next best available procedure. A procedure is termed inappropriate if the risks outweigh the benefits.
Source: Kahan JP, Bernstein SJ, Leape LL et al (1994) Measuring the necessity of medical procedures. Medical Care 1994; 32: 352-365.
An appropriate service is one that is expected to do more good than harm for a patient with a given indication or set of indications. An inappropriate service is one that is not expected to benefit the patient or, in the more extreme case, may harm the patient. An equivocal service is neither clearly appropriate nor clearly inappropriate. The appropriateness of the setting in which care is provided is related to cost-effectiveness. This type of appropriateness is determined by whether the patient’s clinical characteristics, and the services required for his or her care, match the setting in which the care is provided. Setting is a proxy measure of the resources used to provide care. Just as effective care can be provided in a way that is not cost-effective, appropriate services can be provided in inappropriate settings. When appropriateness of setting is considered, it is assumed that the services are appropriate and are provided in a technically correct way.
Source: Lavis JN, Anderson GM (1996) Canadian Medical Association Journal 1996; 154(3): 321-328. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1487507/pdf/cmaj00087-0035.pdf
Two examples of the term in use:
In many places, relatively junior staff are responsible for patients’ initial assessment, leading to avoidable delays in reaching a diagnosis or developing a management plan and, in some cases, to lengthy detours before patients eventually reach the service that is appropriate for them.
Vaughan L, Edwards N, Imison C, Collins B (2018) Rethinking acute medical care in smaller hospitals. Research report October 2018. Page 32. The Nuffield Trust. https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/files/2018-10/nuffield-trust-rethinking-acute-medical-care-in-smaller-hospitals-web-new.pdf
Many health determinants reside outside the health care system, but those that reside within should be distributed equitably and should conform to high-quality standards. Society, through the government, should guarantee equal access to appropriate preventive measures and high-quality treatments to the extent possible.
Ruger JP (2008) Ethics in American Health 2: An Ethical Framework for Health System Reform. American Journal of Public Health 2008; 98(10): 1756-1763. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.121350 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2636451/