MASSDEVICE ON CALL — The prostate cancer screening debate rages on as a new study published in the journal Lancet vindicates the life-saving potential of testing but cautions against introducing routine screening programs.
In a 13-year study of men undergoing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, the tests appeared to help reduce prostate cancer deaths by 21% when compared to groups of patients who went untested. Researchers cautioned, however, that it’s too soon to say for certain that the life-saving benefits of testing outweigh the risks of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, which can leave men with common side-effects such as incontinence and impotence.
"The time for population-based screening has not arrived," lead researcher Professor Fritz Schröder from Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands said in prepared remarks. "Further research is urgently needed on ways to reduce over-diagnosis preferably by avoiding unnecessary biopsy procedures, and reducing the very large number of men who must be screened, biopsied, and treated to help only a few patients."
Clinicians and healthcare regulators have been arguing for years over the dangers of skipped tests and the risks of over-diagnosis. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s 2012 recommendation that physicians set aside PSA testing had urologists up in arms. The Large Urology Group Practice Assn. expressed "outrage" at the USPSTF’s recommendation, warning that "failing to detect cancer early will create a public health catastrophe in 5-10 years."
Medicare resumes aggressive audits
The Centers for Medicare & Medicare restored their Recovery Audit Contractor program to investigate hospitals for inappropriate billing, despite concerns that the program hurts hospitals by draining budgets as they deal with audits and hurts patients by pushing them out of the hospital when doctors fear that auditors may later revoke reimbursements for in-patient care.
Doc-on-demand app ‘Pager’ launches in 5 cities
Pager, a smartphone app that allows patients to summon doctors on demand, is preparing to launch in Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco.
T2 Biosystems prepares IPO
Massachusetts-based T2 Biosystems, maker of a fast-acting test for sepsis, plans to launch its initial public offering this week, hoping to raise as much as $78.2 million.
Study: Cash carrots don’t reduce in-hospital patient deaths for long
Incentive programs that reward hospitals with money for improving patient care do appear to help reduce patient deaths for at time, but the effect wears off.