Radical Prostatectomy Innovation and Outcomes at Military and Civilian Institutions

Minimally invasive radical prostatectomy was more commonly performed in civilian hospitals compared with military hospitals among TRICARE beneficiaries, with comparable postoperative outcomes.
Published Online: June 30, 2017
Jeffrey J. Leow, MBBS, MPH; Joel S. Weissman, PhD; Linda Kimsey, PhD; Andrew Hoburg, PhD; Lorens A. Helmchen, PhD; Wei Jiang, MS; Nathanael Hevelone, MPH; Stuart R. Lipsitz, ScD; Louis L. Nguyen, MD, MPH, MBA; and Steven L. Chang, MD, MS

Limited data are available regarding the impact of the type of healthcare delivery system on technology diffusion and associated clinical outcomes. We assessed the adoption of minimally invasive radical prostatectomy (MIRP), a recent clinical innovation, and whether this adoption altered surgical morbidity for prostate cancer surgery.

Study Design: Retrospective review of administrative data from TRICARE, the healthcare program of the United States Military Health System. Surgery occurred at military hospitals, supported by federal appropriations, or civilian hospitals, supported by hospital revenue.

Methods: We evaluated TRICARE beneficiaries with prostate cancer (International Classification of Disease, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification [ICD-9-CM] code: 185) who received a radical prostatectomy (60.5) between 2005 and 2009. MIRP was identified based on minimally invasive surgery codes (54.21, 17.42). We assessed yearly MIRP utilization, 30-day postoperative complications (Clavien classification system), length of stay, blood transfusion, and long-term urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Results: A total of 3366 men underwent radical prostatectomy at military hospitals compared with 1716 at civilian hospitals, with minimal clinic-demographic differences. MIRP adoption was 30% greater at civilian hospitals. There were fewer blood transfusions (odds ratio, 0.44; P <.0001) and shorter lengths of stay (incidence risk ratio, 0.85; P <.0001) among civilian hospitals, while 30-day postoperative complications, as well as long-term urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction rates, were comparable.

Conclusions: Compared with military hospitals, civilian hospitals had a greater MIRP adoption during this timeframe, but had comparable surgical morbidity.

Am J Manag Care. 2017;23(6):342-347
Takeaway Points

This is a retrospective review of administrative data from TRICARE, the healthcare program of the United States Military Health System. 
  • Compared with 1716 men in 767 civilian hospitals, 3366 men underwent radical prostatectomy in 36 military hospitals.
  • Minimally invasive radical prostatectomy adoption was 30% greater at civilian hospitals. 
  • The 30-day postoperative complications, as well as long-term urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction rates, were comparable. 
  • Adoption of minimally invasive technology has not significantly improved surgical morbidity. 
  • This study suggests that adoption of technology may not always translate to an observable improvement in patient outcomes.
The rapid pace of clinical innovation—including the development of novel drugs, devices, diagnostic techniques, and surgical interventions—makes the practice of medicine in the United States dynamic. Hospitals and physicians constantly seek to offer new technologies that are effective and help speed recovery, thereby achieving the best possible results for patients. One example of clinical innovation is minimally invasive surgery (MIS), which is associated with fewer complications across a range of procedures.1 Recently, the introduction of robotic surgery has made MIS feasible for even complex surgical procedures such as radical prostatectomy (RP) for the management of prostate cancer in hopes of reducing its well-recognized surgical morbidity.2-4 Minimally invasive RP (MIRP) with laparoscopy was first reported in 19975 and robotic MIRP with the da Vinci Surgical System (Intuitive Surgical, Inc; Sunnyvale, California) was introduced in 2001.6,7 MIRP has become the most common treatment for men with prostate cancer,8,9 with the latest 2013 estimates showing 85% of all RPs were performed using the robotic approach, with the remainder still being performed via the open radical prostatectomy (ORP) approach.10

Prior investigations report that the widespread dissemination of clinical innovation, such as MIRP, in the United States has been associated with patient, surgeon, and hospital characteristics.11-13 These studies, however, did not directly examine the question of how the funding mechanism for healthcare services may have altered this adoption. In theory, hospitals that rely on revenue through reimbursement of services (ie, for-profit and nonprofit institutions) will preferentially adopt new clinical innovations at a faster rate because they attract patients, thereby maximizing hospital revenue.14

In the current study, we analyzed a contemporary cohort of male enrollees in TRICARE, the healthcare program of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Military Health System (MHS). These men all have prostate cancer and underwent RP at either civilian hospitals or military hospitals, which have substantially different models for healthcare delivery. We compared cohorts from these disparate healthcare environments to evaluate the hypothesis that civilian hospitals preferentially adopted MIRP compared with MHS hospitals, resulting in an improved surgical morbidity profile for patients with prostate cancer.



TRICARE is the healthcare program serving active-duty and retired service members and their dependents. This program provides 3 types of health plans: Standard (similar to traditional indemnity insurance), Extra (similar to a preferred provider organization), and Prime (similar to a health maintenance organization). Prime enrollees have a primary care manager (PCM) responsible for their care. TRICARE Plus provides enrollees 65 years or older with access to MHS facilities and benefits comparable to Prime, where available. Services provided by TRICARE are via the Direct Care System at MHS facilities where healthcare professionals are salaried, either as employees of the federal government or as hired contractors. There is also a Purchased Care System (PCS), which reimburses for services at civilian facilities, comprising for-profit and nonprofit institutions in which hospitals and surgeons maximize revenue by increasing the volume of care (ie, fee-for-service).15 Although all active-duty service members typically receive care at military treatment facilities, some TRICARE enrollees (eg, retirees or family members) may also receive care in the PCS, depending on where they reside.

We extracted data from October 1, 2005, to September 30, 2010, from the Military Health System Data Repository (MDR), an administrative database, for all TRICARE Prime and Plus beneficiaries within the United States. We focused on Prime and Plus beneficiaries for 2 reasons. First, the assignment of a PCM who oversees care suggests it is less likely that enrollees might receive care that is not performed within the purview of TRICARE and that care provided might be documented more completely. Second, although all TRICARE benefit plans are generous, Prime enrollees have either very low or no enrollment fees and co-payments, and no deductibles, minimizing the possibility that patient out-of-pocket costs might be a factor in treatment selection. We obtained approval from the institutional review boards of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and established a data use agreement with the Defense Health Agency Privacy Office.

Study Cohort and Outcomes

We identified 28,998 men with a diagnosis of prostate cancer (International Classification of Disease, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification [ICD-9-CM] code: 185). Of these, 5082 underwent RP (ICD-9-CM: 60.5). We examined outcomes describing RP morbidity, including surgical complications and blood transfusions, length of stay (LOS), anastomotic strictures, postoperative incontinence, postoperative erectile dysfunction, and the postoperative complication rates during the 30 days following surgery. Thirty-day surgical complications were determined based on the Clavien classification system, a validated approach for reporting complications16 using ICD-9-CM codes as described previously.17 We evaluated for any complication (Clavien grade ≥1), major complications (Clavien grades 3-5), and mortality (Clavien grade 5). Postoperative mortality was identified through disposition codes in the MDR. Postoperative blood transfusions were also assessed in the 30 days after surgery through a review of the administrative data.

LOS was calculated based on the days between the surgery and discharge from the hospital. The development of anastomotic strictures (ICD-9-CM: 598.2, 598.8, 598.9) was captured from 31 to 365 days after surgery, thus limiting the years of analysis from fiscal year (FY) 2005 to FY 2009. Long-term functional status was estimated based on the use of surgical procedures to address incontinence and erectile dysfunction during the 18 months following surgery, thus excluding men undergoing surgery in the latter half of FY 2009 and in FY 2010. The codes used to capture incontinence and erectile dysfunction have been previously described.11


We extracted demographic information pertinent to our study cohort, including patient age, race, and marital status, as well as clinical information, such as baseline incontinence and erectile dysfunction. For missing data, efforts were made to cross-reference multiple datasets to obtain accurate demographic information. We dichotomized the surgical approach as ORP (ICD-9-CM: 60.5 only) or MIRP (ICD-9-CM: 60.5 + 54.21 and/or 17.42). To adjust for patient health status, we utilized the CMS-Hierarchical Condition Category (CMS-HCC) model, which uses demographics and diagnosis profiles captured for both inpatient and ambulatory encounters in order to adjust capitation payments for health expenditure risk.18 We used CMS-HCC both as a continuous and a categorical variable (tertiles).

Statistical Analysis

We summarized patient and surgical characteristics for patients who underwent RP with descriptive statistics. Categorical variables were compared using Pearson’s χ2 test and continuous variables using the Mann-Whitney U test. We performed difference-in-differences (DID) estimation, with bootstrapping to calculate the 95% confidence interval (CI), to assess the effect of hospital revenue on adoption trends. To compare postoperative outcomes, we created unadjusted and adjusted regression models to evaluate the odds of postoperative complications, anastomotic strictures, incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and blood transfusion, as well as the incidence rate ratio for LOS. We accounted for clinically important confounders, including patient age, race, marital status, comorbidity (CMS-HCC), surgical approach (ORP vs MIRP), and baseline incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Additionally, we performed subgroup analysis on institutions where only MIRP was performed, examining differences in outcomes. Statistical analyses were performed using SAS version 9.3 (SAS Institute; Cary, North Carolina); all tests were 2-sided, and P <.05 was considered statistically significant.


In the study cohort, a total of 3366 men underwent radical prostatectomy in military hospitals compared with 1716 in civilian hospitals across the study period from 2005 to 2009. These surgeries occurred in 767 civilian and 36 military hospitals across the United States. Civilian hospitals were associated with an increased MIRP adoption by approximately 30% (DID estimation: 0.29; 95% CI, 0.19-0.39; P <.01) (Figure) over the course of the study. The disparity in MIRP utilization in favor of civilian hospitals was present during the entire study, but substantially increased beginning in 2008.

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