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Variation in use of echocardiography among veterans who use the Veterans Health Administration vs Medicare.

Kini V, McCarthy FH, Rajaei S, Epstein AJ, Heidenreich PA, Groeneveld PW. Variation in use of echocardiography among veterans who use the Veterans Health Administration vs Medicare. American heart journal. 2015 Oct 1; 170(4):805-11.

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BACKGROUND: Rapid growth in the provision of cardiac imaging tests has led to concerns about overuse. Little is known about the degree to which health care delivery system characteristics influence use and variation in echocardiography. METHODS: We analyzed administrative claims of veterans with heart failure older than 65 years from 2007 to 2010 across 34 metropolitan service areas (MSAs). We compared overall rates and geographic variation in use of transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) between veterans who used the Veterans Health Administration (VA) and propensity-matched veterans who used Medicare. "Dual users" were excluded. RESULTS: There were no significant differences in clinical characteristics or mortality between the propensity-matched cohorts (overall n = 30,404 veterans, mean age 76 years, mortality rate 52%). The Medicare cohort had a significantly higher overall rate of TTE use compared with the VA cohort (1.25 vs 0.38 TTEs per person-year, incidence rate ratio 2.89 [95% CI 2.80-3.00], both P < .001), but a similar coefficient of variation across MSAs (0.36 [95% CI 0.27-0.45] vs 0.48 [95% CI 0.37-0.59]). There was a moderate to strong correlation in variation at the MSA level between cohorts (Spearman r = 0.58, P < .001). CONCLUSION: Overall rates of TTE use were significantly higher in a Medicare cohort compared with a propensity score-matched VA cohort of veterans with heart failure living in urban areas, with similar relative degrees of geographic variation and moderate to strong regional correlation. Rates of TTE use may be strongly influenced by health care system characteristics, but local practice styles influence echocardiography rates irrespective of health system.

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