Association between Guideline-Discordant Prostate Cancer Imaging Rates and Health Care Service among Veterans and Medicare Recipients

Danil V. Makarov, Shannon Ciprut, Dawn Walter, Matthew Kelly, Heather T. Gold, Xiao Hua Zhou, Scott E. Sherman, Ronald Scott Braithwaite, Cary Gross, Steven Zeliadt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Prostate cancer imaging rates appear to vary by health care setting. With the recent extension of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, the government has provided funds for veterans to seek care outside the Veterans Health Administration (VA). It is important to understand the difference in imaging rates and subsequent differences in patterns of care in the VA vs a traditional fee-for-service setting such as Medicare. Objective: To assess the association between prostate cancer imaging rates and a VA vs fee-for-service health care setting. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study included data for men who received a diagnosis of prostate cancer from January 1, 2004, through March 31, 2008, that were collected from the VA Central Cancer Registry, linked to administrate claims and Medicare utilization records, and the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program database. Three distinct nationally representative cohorts were constructed (use of VA only, use of Medicare only, and dual use of VA and Medicare). Men older than 85 years at diagnosis and men without high-risk features but missing any tumor risk characteristic (prostate-specific antigen, Gleason grade, or clinical stage) were excluded. Analysis of the data was completed from March 2016 to February 2018. Exposures: Patient utilization of different health care delivery systems. Main Outcomes and Measures: Rates of prostate cancer imaging were analyzed by health care setting (Medicare only, VA and Medicare, and VA only) among patients with low-risk prostate cancer and patients with high-risk prostate cancer. Results: Of 98867 men with prostate cancer (77.4% white; mean [SD] age, 70.26 [7.48] years) in the study cohort, 57.3% were in the Medicare-only group, 14.5% in the VA and Medicare group, and 28.1% in the VA-only group. Among men with low-risk prostate cancer, the Medicare-only group had the highest rate of guideline-discordant imaging (52.5%), followed by the VA and Medicare group (50.9%) and the VA-only group (45.9%) (P <.001). Imaging rates for men with high-risk prostate cancer were not significantly different among the 3 groups. Multivariable analysis showed that individuals in the VA and Medicare group (risk ratio [RR], 0.87; 95% CI, 0.76-0.98) and VA-only group (RR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.67-0.92) were less likely to receive guideline-discordant imaging than those in the Medicare-only group. Conclusions and Relevance: The results of this study suggest that patients with prostate cancer who use Medicare rather than the VA for health care could experience more utilization of health care services without an improvement in the quality of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere181172
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Fee-for-Service Plans
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Procedures and Techniques Utilization/statistics & numerical data
  • Prostatic Neoplasms/diagnostic imaging
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed/statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Health


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