Peter F. Orio, DO, MS, presented “Socioeconomic Aspects of Prostate Brachytherapy​​” as part of a course on Prostate Brachytherapy released in 2021 and created by the American Brachytherapy Society in partnership with Grand Rounds in Urology.

How to cite: Orio, Peter F. Socioeconomic Aspects of Prostate Brachytherapy.” September 2021. Accessed Jul 2022. https://grandroundsinurology.com/socioeconomic-aspects-of-prostate-brachytherapy/

Socioeconomic Aspects of Prostate Brachytherapy

As part of a special course on brachytherapy for prostate cancer from the American Brachytherapy Society (ABS) and Grand Rounds in Urology, Peter F. Orio III, DO, MS, Vice Chair of Network Operations for Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center Department of Radiation Oncology and Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, discusses socioeconomic influences on the use of prostate brachytherapy. He begins by listing nine factors that he believes have led to a decline in the use of prostate brachytherapy: (1) a decrease in PSA screening and prostate cancer diagnosis; (2) an increase in patients electing active surveillance; (3) Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements; (4) an increase in the number of robotic prostatectomies; (5) a suboptimal volume of prostate brachytherapy procedures being performed; (6) negative press about brachytherapy from procedures performed at the Philadelphia VA; (7) the increased technical sophistication of external beam radiation technologies; (8) a lack of knowledge of brachytherapy’s efficacy; and, most significantly, (9) markedly decreased reimbursement rates for brachytherapy. Focusing on this last point, Dr. Orio considers a report by the Government Accountability Office which found that if there was a self-referring interest in a center that offered intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), use of IMRT would increase by about 50%, while radical prostatectomies would decrease by 27% and brachytherapy procedures would decrease by 50%. He explains that in a fee-for-service model, a treatment like brachytherapy which requires one implant is reimbursed for far less than a treatment like IMRT which requires weeks of treatment over the course of multiple sessions. This creates, Dr. Orio argues, a disincentive to perform brachytherapy even though it is less expensive and results in better quality of life than IMRT. He suggests that implementation of the radiation oncology alternative payment model (RO-APM) may solve this problem. Dr. Orio explains that the RO-APM, which is being tested in certain zip codes, represents a shift to value-based care and is intended to simplify coding and reduce Medicare costs. Under the RO-APM, he notes, regardless of the modality of treatment, the payment is the same, so brachytherapy monotherapy will likely benefit from an increase in payment. Dr. Orio concludes that the RO-APM may lead to a resurgence in prostate brachytherapy by removing financial disincentives to performing the procedure.

For more on brachytherapy, check out the first module of the free Prostate Brachytherapy course from GRU and the American Brachytherapy Society.