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Access to Lung Cancer Screening in the Veterans Health Administration: Does Geographic Distribution Match Need in the Population?

Boudreau JH, Miller DR, Qian S, Nunez ER, Caverly TJ, Wiener RS. Access to Lung Cancer Screening in the Veterans Health Administration: Does Geographic Distribution Match Need in the Population? Chest. 2021 Jul 1; 160(1):358-367.

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BACKGROUND: Studies show uneven access to Medicare-approved lung cancer screening (LCS) programs across the United States. The Veterans Health Administration (VA), the largest national US integrated health system, is potentially well positioned to coordinate LCS services across regional units to ensure that access matches distribution of need nationally. RESEARCH QUESTION: To what extent does LCS access (considering both VA and partner sites) and use match the distribution of eligible Veterans at state and regional levels? METHODS: In this retrospective analysis, we identified LCS examinations in VA facilities between 2013 and 2019 from the VA Corporate Data Warehouse and plotted VA facilities with LCS geographically. We compared estimated LCS rates (unique Veterans screened per LCS-eligible population) across states and VA regional units. Finally, we assessed whether the VA''s new partnership with the GO Foundation for Lung Cancer (which includes more than 750 LCS centers) closes geographic gaps in LCS access. RESULTS: We identified 71,898 LCS examinations in 96 of 139 (69.1%) VA facilities in 44 states between 2013 and 2019, with substantial variation across states (0-8 VA LCS facilities per state). Screening rates among eligible Veterans in the population varied more than 30-fold across regional networks (rate ratio, 33.6; 95% CI, 30.8-36.7 for VA New England vs Veterans Integrated Service Network 4), with weak correlation between eligible populations and LCS rates (coefficient, -0.30). Partnering with the GO Foundation for Lung Cancer expands capacity and access (eg, all states now have  = 1 VA or partner LCS site), but 9 of the 12 states with the highest proportions of rural Veterans still have  = 3 total LCS facilities. INTERPRETATION: Disparities in LCS access exist based on where Veterans live, particularly for rural Veterans, even after partnering with the GO Foundation for Lung Cancer. The nationally integrated VA system has an opportunity to leverage regional resources to distribute and coordinate LCS services better to ensure equitable access.

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