Background: Colorectal cancer is the second most common fatal malignancy in the United States. Early detection using fecal occult blood tests has been shown to reduce mortality, but these tests are underutilized among those eligible for this screening. Attempts to increase use of fecal occult blood tests in eligible populations have focused on the provider, patient, or system. But none have examined whether a support-staff intervention is effective in achieving this aim. We therefore conducted a randomized controlled trial to test the impact of authorizing support staff to order fecal occult blood tests in a general internal medicine clinic organized into four teams.
Methods: A total of 1,109 patients were included in the study, 545 of whom were in the two teams randomized to treatment. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were used to evaluate the impact of the intervention.
Results: The intervention resulted in significantly more fecal occult blood test ordering in the treatment group than in the control group for all patients (52% vs 15%, P < 0.001). Treatment fecal occult blood test cards were returned as frequently as the control cards for all patients (44% vs 48%, P = 0.571).
Conclusion: Delegation of selected screening tasks to support staff can enhance patient access to preventive care.