The Influence of Health Insurance Policy on Radiation Oncology Physician SBRT/SABR Use Practices: A North American Survey

Jenny Guo, Hyun Kim, Ingrid Kalchman, Tu D. Dan, Tingting Zhan, Maria Werner-Wasik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose European data suggest that 8-fraction stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) regimens may be similar in efficacy with less toxicity than ≤5-fraction SBRT for central lung lesions. However, under current Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines, SBRT in the United States (US) is reimbursed for only ≤5 fractions, whereas there are no such restrictions for reimbursement in Canada. We hypothesize that US-specific SBRT reimbursement policies influence the use of ≥5-fraction SBRT in US academic centers in comparison with comparable Canadian centers. Methods and Materials A 15-question electronic survey was distributed to radiation oncologists at National Cancer Institute–designated cancer centers in the US and the 10 highest research-funded cancer centers in Canada. Fisher exact test or exact logistic regression if applicable was used, where P<.05 was considered statistically different from neutral. Results Of the 143 radiation oncologists from 60 US cancer centers and 6 Canadian cancer centers who completed the survey (17.6% response rate), 125 routinely prescribe SBRT. Fifty percent of US physicians versus 0% of Canadian physicians indicated that there are instances when they would like to prescribe >5-fraction SBRT but prescribe ≤5 fractions because of insurance reimbursement (P=.076 and P=.001, respectively). Seventy percent (P=.006) of US radiation oncologists versus 0% (P=.001) of Canadian radiation oncologists report that SBRT clinical investigation is constrained by the insurance reimbursement. The most common reported deterrent to prescribing >5-fraction SBRT in the US was insurance reimbursement (49.5%). Conclusions US radiation oncologists are more likely than those in Canada to report that SBRT clinical investigation and >5-fraction SBRT use may be negatively influenced by health insurance reimbursement; this perception was not held by physicians in Canada. Health care environment may significantly affect radiation therapy decision making and practice patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-529
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


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