Steep Decline in Prostate Cancer Outpatient Visits During the COVID-19 Pandemic, According to Research by Verana Health and American Urological Association

Steep Decline in Prostate Cancer Outpatient Visits During the COVID-19 Pandemic, According to Research by Verana Health and American Urological Association

Verana Health—a healthcare technology and analytics innovator focused on transforming multi-specialty clinical data into real-world evidence—and the American Urological Association (AUA) today unveiled findings of a research collaboration showing that the COVID-19 pandemic sharply curtailed access to outpatient care for men with prostate cancer in the United States across all risk groups, but particularly for those with low-risk disease. Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death in older men.

Verana Health: Findings of the study are being presented by Matt Cooperberg, MD, MPH, professor of urology and epidemiology & biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) from June 4-8. Dr. Cooperberg is the lead author and will present via video recording at the meeting.

The study’s goal was to document national, real-world trends in prostate cancer diagnoses and treatment throughout the throes of the pandemic during 2020, using data from the AUA Quality Registry (AQUA), a national Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) designed to measure, report, and improve healthcare quality and patient outcomes. While evaluations of prostate cancer management to date have been limited largely to specific healthcare systems and geographic regions, 158 urology practices across the U.S. contributed data from their practices’ electronic health records (EHRs) to the study through their participation in the AQUA registry. Researchers looked at visits for prostate cancer, use of diagnostic procedures such as prostate biopsies, and prostate cancer treatments including surgical prostatectomy and radiation administration across different patient risk categories.

“Mean daily prostate cancer visits per urology practice declined sharply among all risk categories, but the steepest drop was for visits for low-risk prostate cancer, which were down nearly 50% from the previous year. Though there was a recovery after the initial drop, visit volume fell even further through the second half of 2020,” said Dr. Cooperberg. “Further studies will thus be needed to assess the downstream consequences of delayed evaluation and management for men with prostate cancer.”

The large decline in visits for early-stage prostate cancer patients started in March 2020 and was followed by an initial recovery in visit volumes after several months. However, a secondary decline in visits—preceding and worsening during the pandemic surge in the fall of 2020—led to lower visit volumes across all patient risk categories by year’s end compared with the first drop in visit volumes initially observed. Both the steepness of the initial decline in visits and pace of recovery varied by race, geography, and other factors.

In addition to documenting the impact of the pandemic on prostate cancer visits and treatments, the research underscores the value of analyzing real-world healthcare data to track changes in care as they unfold. Most of the real-world data regarding early-stage prostate cancer—as well as other genitourinary cancers including bladder and upper tract urothelial cancer, renal cell carcinoma, and testicular cancer—are generated by urologists, given that the diagnostic procedures and initial treatments are usually performed by urologists. In contrast, oncologists typically become involved in the care of patients with genitourinary cancers when the disease is advanced and/or metastatic, often well after treatment strategies have been initiated and directed by urologists. As such, the real-world EHR data from urology practices participating in the AQUA registry are unique for characterizing and describing the disease trajectories for genitourinary cancers.

“The data on early-stage genitourinary cancers in the AQUA registry are invaluable to researchers and clinicians,” said Matthew Roe, MD, MHS, chief medical officer at Verana Health and a co-author of the study. “By partnering with AUA to apply our data curation and analytics capabilities to the AQUA registry, Verana Health is helping the organization fulfill its mission of improving care for patients with urological disorders.”

The AUA promotes the highest standards of urological clinical care through research like the partnership with Verana Health. Continued research through the AQUA registry will also result in further insights into the effectiveness of treatments for early-stage genitourinary cancers.

“For urologists and genitourinary cancer patients, early detection and treatment are critical to successful outcomes,” said David F. Penson, MD, MPH, AUA Science and Quality Council Chair. “Thanks to our collaboration with Verana Health, we now have a better understanding about changes in care due to the COVID-19 pandemic that we can study to gauge the long-term impact of delayed diagnoses and treatments for prostate cancer.”

About Verana Health

Verana Health is a healthcare technology and analytics company entrusted by key medical associations to manage multi-specialty, real-world data at every stage of the analytics process—from entry to evidence. Anchored in ophthalmology, neurology, and urology, the Company acts as a linchpin in the healthcare data ecosystem, making data meaningful and actionable to empower physicians and accelerate research for patients. By curating and applying advanced analytics to real-world clinical data, Verana Health helps life sciences partners enhance evidence generation, reinvent medical research, and drive innovations in specific disease areas.

About the American Urological Association

Founded in 1902 and headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland, the American Urological Association (AUA) is a leading advocate for the specialty of urology and has nearly 23,000 members throughout the world. The AUA is a premier urologic association, providing invaluable support to the urologic community as it pursues its mission of fostering the highest standards of urologic care through education, research and the formulation of health policy.

This article is shared with Prittle Prattle News in the form of a Press Release.

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