Five years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against the use of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in men 75 or older.
The advisory group looking at these screenings for prostate cancer concluded that their potential for harm to older men outweighed the benefits.
Many doctors and patients took heed. A recent study by Emory University and CDC researchers found that the task force recommendation led to a 7.9 percent decline in annual PSA testing rates.
“The most interesting finding is that a change in an expert panel recommendation led to reductions in the use of screening even though it was not tied to any changes in insurers’ coverage or payment policies,” says David H. Howard, the study’s lead author, who’s associate professor of health policy and management at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. “The recommendation alone led to a cost-saving change in medical practice patterns.”
Even though about 42 percent of men in the 75-and-older age group continue to receive PSA tests, Howard says, “some patients and physicians are listening to the task force’s recommendations.’’
Here is a video interview, courtesy of Emory, with Howard on the study’s findings and the broader implications for health care.