Wide variations in medical care use that are not associated with better outcomes and cannot be explained by patient characteristics are often considered proof of waste in the U.S. health care system. To test this assumption, researchers studied health records of older men with lung, colorectal, or prostate cancer to compare average use and geographic variation in use of cancer-related imaging between fee-for service Medicare (n = 34,475) and the department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (n = 6,835) health care system.
The researchers found that adjusted annual use of cancer-related imaging was nearly 50 percent lower in the VA cohort compared to the Medicare cohort in the same geographic areas. However, varied by region as much for VA patients as for Medicare patients. These findings demonstrate that geographic variation in use of imaging studies does not necessarily indicate overuse of these studies.
Article: Geographic Variation in Cancer-Related Imaging: Veterans Affairs Health Care System Versus Medicare, J.M. McWilliams, J.B. Dalton, M.B. Landrum, A.B. Frakt, S.D. Pizer, and N.L. Keating, Annals of Internal Medicine, doi: 10.7326/M14-0650, published 1 December 2014.
Source: American College of Physicians