Study Finds Extensive Variations in Cost, Transparency of Thyroid Cancer Care

A mandate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services directed that from Jan. 1, 2021, all hospitals in the United States provide pricing information online about their services and items. The objective of this mandate is to help inform patients about the cost of procedures and services before they receive them.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear used this data to examine price variation and transparency for thyroid cancer treatment. They discovered that both price and transparency differed greatly, with the costs of various services having huge variations and only one-half of the cancer centers included in the study revealing negotiated prices.

The study’s results were reported in the “JAMA Network” journal.

Roy Xiao, an otolaryngology-head and neck surgery resident at the institution and the study’s corresponding author, stated that revealing negotiated prices was crucial in assisting patients in estimating the cost of care before treatment was administered. Xiao added that while the researchers expected some degree of variation based on prior research, the range they observed was astonishing.

The study centered on thyroid cancer because the treatment of this particular cancer is known to impose huge financial burdens on patients. Rates of bankruptcy are the highest for patients with thyroid cancer, in comparison to other patients who suffer from other types of cancer. The scientists distinguished price variation and availability for thyroid care in more than 50 NCI-designated centers (National Cancer Institute) in their study. Of this number, half revealed commercial payer-negotiated prices for any services or items.

The researchers observed extensive differences across centers, even after they normalized factors that affect the cost of delivery of care, disclosing that there was a 44-fold variation in the neck-computed tomography costs and a 70-fold variation in radioactive iodine treatment costs. They added that, on average, procedures such as a thyroid uptake scan and a fine needle aspirate biopsy differed by roughly 5-fold among the centers.

The researchers note that while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires hospitals to reveal negotiated rates for physicians employed by the institution, physicians who practice at these hospitals are usually employed by associate physician organizations, which may explain why many centers don’t disclose surgeon professional fees for thyroid surgery. They also observe that their research was carried out shortly after these price-transparency requirements were implemented, which means that transparency and disclosure rates may increase as more centers comply with the mandate. The study’s senior author, Rosh K.V. Sethi, asserts that price transparency will help both physicians and patients understand differences in cost.

The disparities in the costs incurred by thyroid cancer patients make a strong case for personalizing treatment modalities in the way that is exemplified by what companies such as Predictive Oncology (NASDAQ: POAI) are doing since a customized protocol stands a higher chance of improving patient outcomes, thereby lowering costs incurred in the long term.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Predictive Oncology (NASDAQ: POAI) are available in the company’s newsroom at http://ibn.fm/POAI

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