Computed tomography colonography less costly than colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening of commercially insured patients

Tia Goss Sawhney, Bruce S. Pyenson, David Rotter, Michele Berrios, Judy Yee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Computed tomography (CT) colonography’s effectiveness, its associated patient advantages, and its potential role to increase colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates have been demonstrated in previous research, but whether CT colonography has a cost advantage relative to optical colonoscopy for the commercially insured US population has not been assessed. OBJECTIVE: To compare the costs of CRC screening using CT colonography or optical colonoscopy for commercially insured people in the United States. METHODS: Using retrospective commercial healthcare claims data and peer-reviewed studies, we performed a simulated multiyear, matched-case comparison of the costs of CT and optical colonoscopies for CRC screening. We estimated commercial optical colonoscopy costs per screening based on the 2016 Truven Health MarketScan Commercial Database and ancillary services, such as bowel preparation, anesthesia, pathology, and complication costs. We developed 4 scenarios for CT colonography cost per screening using the ratio of commercial to Medicare fees, and calculated ancillary service and follow-up costs from payers’ costs for these services when associated with optical colonoscopies. For comparison, we converted the costs per screening to the costs per screening year per person using real-world screening intervals that were obtained from peer-reviewed studies. RESULTS: In 2016, the average optical colonoscopy screening cost for commercial payers was $2033 (N = 406,068), or $340 per screening year per person. With our highest-cost CT colonography scenario, CT colonography costs 22% less, or $265 per screening year, than optical colonoscopy, mostly because of the advantages for patients of no anesthesia and the greatly reduced use of pathology services. CONCLUSIONS: The use of CT colonography for CRC testing offers effective screening, patient-centered advantages, and lower costs compared with optical colonoscopy, and may be particularly appealing to the currently unscreened population with commercial health insurance. If the availability of CT colonography expands to meet the increased demand for it, CT colonography could cost up to 50% less than optical colonoscopy per screening year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-361
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Health and Drug Benefits
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2018


  • CRC screening
  • CT colonography
  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Optical colonoscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Strategy and Management


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