Background/objectives: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening can be of low value in older adults. Our objective was to quantify the prevalence and variation of low-value PSA screening across the Veterans Health Administration (VA), which has instituted programs to reduce low-value care.
Design: Retrospective cohort.
Setting: VA administrative data, 2014 to 2015.
Participants: National random sample (N = 214 480) of male veterans, aged 75 years or older.
Measurements: We defined PSA screening in men aged 75 years or older without a history of prostate cancer as low value, per established definitions in Medicare. We calculated screening rates overall and by VA Medical Center (VAMC), adjusting for patient and VAMC-level factors. We characterized variation across VAMCs using the adjusted median odds ratio (OR) and compared the adjusted OR of screening between VAMCs in different deciles of low-value screening rates. In separate sensitivity analyses, we assessed screening in veterans at greatest risk of 1-year mortality and among veterans after excluding those who underwent prostatectomy, had a prior PSA elevation, or had a clinical indication for testing.
Results: Overall, 37 867 (17.7%) of veterans underwent low-value PSA screening (VAMC range = 3.3%-38.2%). The adjusted median OR was 1.88, meaning the median odds of screening would increase by 88% were a veteran to transfer his care to a VAMC with higher screening rates. Veterans at VAMCs in the top decile had an adjusted OR of 12.9 (95% confidence interval = 11.0-15.2) compared to those veterans in the lowest decile. Among veterans with the greatest mortality risk (n = 23 377), 3496 (15.0%) underwent screening (VAMC range = 1.7%-46.3%). After excluding veterans with a prior prostatectomy, PSA elevation, or a potential clinical indication, 31 556 (14.7%) underwent screening (VAMC range = 2.0%-49.9%).
Conclusions: In a national cohort of older veterans, more than one in six received low-value PSA screening, with greater than 10-fold variation across VAMCs and high rates of screening among those with the greatest mortality risk. J Am Geriatr Soc 67:1922-1927, 2019.
Keywords: low-value care; prostate cancer screening; veterans.
Published 2019. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.