None of the major clinical practice guidelines recommend that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening be routinely performed in asymptomatic men older than 75 years or younger than 40 years. We investigated the practitioner-level determinants of inappropriate PSA screening in 7 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals.
Data on PSA test use from 1997 to 2004 were obtained from VHA databases for 181 139 male patients and the 4823 health care providers who ordered their tests. Patients were excluded from the study population if they underwent PSA testing for nonscreening reasons, as indicated by prostate cancer-specific medications, diagnoses, and procedures. Inappropriate PSA test use was defined as PSA screening in patients older than 75 years or younger than 40 years. Univariate and multivariate Poisson regressions were performed.
The mean ± SD percentage of inappropriate tests by health care provider was 19.3% ± 15.0%, with 18.4% ± 14.9% in patients older than 75 years and 0.8% ± 3.0% in patients younger than 40 years. Practitioners who were urology specialists, male, infrequent PSA test orderers, and affiliated with specific hospitals had significantly higher levels of inappropriate PSA screening. Compared with attending physicians, nurses and physician assistants had significantly lower levels of inappropriate screening. Under multivariate modeling, infrequent PSA test ordering and hospital affiliation retained statistical significance. The percentage of inappropriate PSA screening increased significantly with the age of male health care providers (P<.001).
This study elucidates several important provider-level determinants of PSA screening misuse and substantiates that PSA screening is frequently performed counter to evidence-based guidelines. Further work is needed to determine the degree to which “prostatempathy” contributes to PSA misuse by older male providers.