When compared with fee-for-service Medicare patients, Keating and colleagues found that veterans in the VHA were diagnosed with colorectal cancers at earlier-stages and had higher adjusted rates of certain recommended treatments, including surgery for colon cancer, chemotherapy for lymphoma, and bisphosphonates for myeloma. With regard to other treatments studied, care was fairly equal in quality between the VHA and fee-for-service Medicare.
Keating conducted additional analyses to further account for differences that may exist between veterans and the Medicare population that they could not measure. For example, veterans are often in worse health than the general population. When they updated their results to account for these likely differences in health status, care in the VHA was better than that in fee-for-service Medicare for most indicators. One exception was a likely delay in the adoption of certain new and expensive radiation therapy technologies for prostate cancer.
Overall, rates of recommended care were relatively low in both settings for some of the treatments studied. This may result from lack of data on the benefits versus risks of these drugs in older patients. Keating recommended that cancer clinical trials include older individuals as well as those with comorbid illnesses.
"While the ongoing national health care debate centers on expanding insurance coverage, ensuring a coordinated health care delivery system that provides high-quality care at good value is equally important to improve outcomes and keep rising health care costs in check," said Keating.
|Contact: David Cameron|
Harvard Medical School