Publication Abstract

Authors: Hollingsworth JM, Zhang Y, Krein SL, Ye Z, Hollenbeck BK

Title: Understanding the variation in treatment intensity among patients with early stage bladder cancer.

Journal: Cancer 116(15):3587-94

Date: 2010 Aug 01

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Given the uncertainty surrounding the optimal management for early stage bladder cancer, physicians vary in how they approach the disease. The authors of this report linked cancer registry data with medical claims to identify the sources of variation and opportunities for improving the value of cancer care. METHODS: By using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database (1992-2005), patients with early stage bladder cancer were abstracted (n=18,276). The primary outcome was the intensity of initial treatment that patients received, as measured by all Medicare payments for bladder cancer incurred in the 2 years after diagnosis. Multilevel models were fitted to partition the variation in treatment intensity attributable to patient versus provider factors, and the potential savings to Medicare from reducing the physician contribution were estimated. RESULTS: Provider factors accounted for 9.2% of the variation in treatment intensity. Increasing provider treatment intensity did not correlate with improved cancer-specific survival (P=.07), but it was associated with the subsequent receipt of major interventions, including radical cystectomy (P<.001). If provider-level variation was reduced and clinical practice was aligned with that of physicians who performed in the 25th percentile of treatment intensity, then total payments made for the average patient could be lowered by 18.6%, saving Medicare $18.7 million annually. CONCLUSIONS: The current results indicated that a substantial amount of the variation in initial treatment intensity for early stage bladder cancer is driven by the physician. Furthermore, a more intensive practice style was not associated with improved cancer-specific survival or the avoidance of major interventions. Therefore, interventions aimed at reducing between-provider differences may improve the value of cancer care.