(HealthDay News) — Cancer-related imaging use is lower in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system than in fee-for-service Medicare, and use is not associated with geographic variation, according to research published in the Dec. 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
J. Michael McWilliams, M.D., Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues conducted an observational analysis to compare average use and geographic variation in use of cancer-related imaging between fee-for-service Medicare and the VA health care system. Medicare and VA utilization data were linked to cancer registry data for the period 2003 to 2005. Participants were older men with lung, colorectal, or prostate cancer and included 34,475 traditional Medicare beneficiaries and 6,835 VA patients.
The researchers found that in the VA versus the Medicare cohort the adjusted annual use of cancer-related imaging was lower (price-weighted count, $197 versus $379 per patient; P < 0.001). In addition, the VA cohort had lower annual use of advanced imaging for prostate cancer at low risk for metastasis ($41 versus $117 per patient; P < 0.001). The magnitude of geographic variation in cancer-related imaging use was similar for the VA and Medicare cohorts.
“Use of cancer-related imaging was lower in the VA health care system than in fee-for-service Medicare, but lower use was not associated with less geographic variation,” the authors write.
One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.