One strategy for controlling the skyrocketing costs of cancer care may be to target high-tech/high-cost imaging at the end of life (EOL). This population-based study investigated receipt of high-tech/high-cost imaging and its determinants for Taiwanese patients with metastatic cancer in their last month of life. Individual patient-level data were linked with encrypted identification numbers from computerized administrative data in Taiwan, that is, the National Register of Deaths Database, Cancer Registration System database, and National Health Insurance claims datasets, Database of Medical Care Institutions Status, and national census statistics (population/household income). We identified receipt of computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and radionuclide bone scans (BSs) for 236,911 Taiwanese cancer decedents with metastatic disease, 2001 to 2010. Associations of patient, physician, hospital, and regional factors with receiving CT, MRI, and bone scan in the last month of life were evaluated by multilevel generalized linear-mixed models. Over one-third (average [range]: 36.11% [33.07%-37.31%]) of patients with metastatic cancer received at least 1 high-tech/high-cost imaging modality in their last month (usage rates for CT, MRI, PET, and BS were 31.05%, 5.81%, 0.25%, and 8.15%, respectively). In 2001 to 2010, trends of receipt increased for CT (27.96-32.22%), MRI (4.34-6.70%), and PET (0.00-0.62%), but decreased for BS (9.47-6.57%). Facilitative determinants with consistent trends for at least 2 high-tech/high-cost imaging modalities were male gender, younger age, married, rural residence, lung cancer diagnosis, dying within 1 to 2 years of diagnosis, not under medical oncology care, and receiving care at a teaching hospital with a larger volume of terminally ill cancer patients and greater EOL care intensity. Undergoing high-tech/high-cost imaging at EOL generally was not associated with regional characteristics, healthcare resources, and EOL care intensity. To more effectively use high-tech/high-cost imaging at EOL, clinical and financial interventions should target nonmedical oncologists/hematologists affiliated with teaching hospitals that tend to aggressively treat high volumes of terminally ill cancer patients, thereby avoiding unnecessary EOL care spending and transforming healthcare systems into affordable high-quality cancer care delivery systems.
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