Background: Patients in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) appear to have higher utilization of cancer screening tests than patients with fee-for-service insurance.
Methods: The authors surveyed the medical directors of 174 physician organizations in a California network model HMO to obtain information regarding their organizational structure, implementation of guidelines, and use of systems to increase cancer screening.
Results: The majority of independent practice associations (IPAs) and medical groups (IMGs) in this California HMO had guidelines and office systems aimed at improving cancer screening. These activities were reported more frequently for mammography and Papanicolaou (Pap) smears than for colorectal carcinoma screening. IMGs reported using flow sheets more often than IPAs. Chart audits were performed more frequently for mammography (48% for IMGs and 40% for IPAs) and Pap smears (45% and 40%, respectively) than for colorectal carcinoma screening (38% and 30%, respectively). Approximately 50% of IPAs and IMGs reported mailing reminders to patients for mammography and Pap smears, but only a few did so for colorectal carcinoma screening. Annual fecal occult blood testing was believed by most medical directors to be a reasonable strategy for managed care patients (86% of IPAs and 96% of IMGs); however, fewer believed that screening sigmoidoscopy for patients ages 50-70 years was a reasonable expectation (71% and 78%, respectively).
Conclusions: The majority of IPAs and IMGs in this California HMO reported using both guidelines and office systems to improve cancer screening rates. Further research is needed to understand the effect of these systems, as well their complex interactions with competing incentives, on cancer screening in managed care patients.
Copyright 2000 American Cancer Society.