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Urology-owned radiation oncology self-referral can increase patients' travel distance for treatment
Date:8/14/2012

Men with prostate cancer in Texas may be driving more than three times farther than needed to obtain radiation oncology treatments for their cancer when treated at a urology-owned radiation oncology practice versus other facilities, according to a study to be published online August 15, 2012, and in the September 1, 2012, print issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics (Red Journal), the official scientific journal of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

This study reviewed 229 urology practices in Texas and found that 5 percent (12 centers) offered radiation oncology services, and 53 percent of the state's population lives within 10 miles of these centers. The 12 urology-owned practices were found to have multiple urologic clinics, but each practice has only one radiation oncology treatment center focused on prostate cancer treatment. This often resulted in extended travel times because radiation therapy is not available at the same physical location as the urologic clinic where the patient was initially diagnosed. The mean patient travel distance was found to be 19.7 miles (26.11 minutes) to the urology-owned center versus 5.88 miles (9.15 minutes) to the nearest radiation oncology center.

The patient benefits of this practice model, known as physician self-referral, have been questioned particularly with regard to its impact on increasing health care costs. Self-referral is being investigated by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and others due to concern that financial incentives could steer patients to more costly, unnecessary and/or less effective procedures. This article reinforces concern about the increase in urology-owned radiation oncology practices across the country, and further notes that 28 percent of Texas urologists now work in practices that self-refer for radiation oncology services. According to a national Urology Times survey, published on December 1, 201
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Contact: Michelle Kirkwood
press@astro.org
703-286-1600
American Society for Radiation Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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