16-member panel makes evidence-based recommendations to the nation’s primary care providers about services such as colonoscopy.
Joel Tsevat, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has been appointed to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The task force, which announced Tsevat’s appointment today, is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine. It works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services.
“I am honored to be selected, because this is an opportunity to impact preventive services and make a difference in the health of our patients in South Texas and nationally,” Tsevat said.
Tsevat is director of the Center for Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH), which is part of the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. He occupies the Joaquin G. Cigarroa, Jr., MD, Distinguished Chair and is principal investigator of the KL2 career development award within the health science center’s Clinical and Translational Science Award funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Tsevat also holds secondary appointments at the UT Austin Dell Medical School, where he is professor in the departments of population health and internal medicine; the UTHealth School of Public Health – San Antonio regional campus; The University of Texas at San Antonio; and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He is a graduate of UT Austin and completed his medical degree at UT Health San Antonio, later receiving the Long School of Medicine’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Weighs benefits versus harms
The task force provides primary care clinicians and their patients with information about the benefits and harms of a wide range of preventive services so that together they can make informed health care decisions that are best for each patient, according to the task force website. Benefits of preventive services can include helping people stay healthy, preventing disease or detecting it early when treatment may be more effective, and prolonging life. Harms of preventive services can include inaccurate test results, receiving treatment when it is not needed, and side effects and complications from the service itself or resulting treatment, according to the site.
Task force recommendations are issued letter grades with statements – A or B if the service is recommended, C if the recommendation depends on the patient’s situation, D if the service is not recommended, and I if there is not enough evidence to make a recommendation.
Recommendations cover all kinds of situations. Should primary care physicians screen people for vitamin D deficiency? Which patients should be screened for diabetes?
“All task force recommendations are very rigorously rooted in evidence-based medicine,” Tsevat said. “They are not expert opinion-based, they are not like, ‘We’ve always done it this way so this is how we should do it.’ And they’re updated. They update the recommendations every five years, so as new evidence comes in, recommendations may change.
“So, the task force is making up-to-date, evidence-based recommendations that impact most if not all the patients that we see in primary care,” Tsevat concluded.
Reviews are conducted by an evidence-based practice center based in Oregon. Task force members work with the center’s staff to refine questions, interpret analyses and data, and make recommendations.
“The other nice thing is that this whole process is very transparent,” Tsevat said. “The public has input into topics that are selected, questions that are asked, draft recommendations, all of that. It’s a real strength of this process. It’s not just 16 experts gathering in a conference room behind closed doors and making decisions. The recommendations are made in the most transparent way, based on the strongest possible evidence.”
Tsevat joins Carlos Roberto Jaén, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of family and community medicine at UT Health San Antonio, on the task force. Jaén’s appointment took effect in January 2022.