Cost-effectiveness proves tricky in cancer care

A self-examination of how Intermountain Health Care provides oncology services concludes that cost and effectiveness are not inextricably linked, reported The Salt Lake City Tribune.

Researchers and providers at Utah's predominant health system discovered that spending more money on some services improved overall outcomes than focusing strictly on expenditures alone. One such example was the use of pricier positron emission tomography (PET) scans over cheaper computerized tomography (CT) scans, because they are far more accurate.

"Sometimes it's more important to do one expensive test first than to build up four or five cheaper tests," John C. Ruckdeschel, the medical director of Intermountain's oncology clinical program, told the Tribune. As a result, "there is no reason why one hospital should be doing PET scans 80 percent of the time and another hospital doing it 30 percent of the time," he noted.

At the same time, providers are under pressure to control the costs of oncology care, which are predicted to double in many states by the end of the decade, according to a study last September in The American Journal of Managed Care.

And while the industry aims to strike a balance between finding effective cancer treatments and not bankrupting patients or providers, an April Health Affairs study found that higher cancer spending was linked to longer life.

Intermountain uses tumor boards to discuss each cancer case and how to construct a course of treatment before moving forward as a way to ensure oncology care is effective both in terms of costs and outcomes, according to the Tribune.

To learn mor:
- read the Salt Lake City Tribune article
- her's the American Journal of Managed Care study