Objective: To examine patient and physician preferences in regard to 5 colorectal cancer screening alternatives endorsed by a 1997 expert panel, determine the impact of patient and physician values regarding certain test features on screening preference, and assess physicians' perceptions of patients' values.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Setting: A general internal medicine practice at an academic medical center in 1998.
Participants: Patients (N=217; 76% response rate) and physicians (N=39; 87% response rate) at the study setting.
Measurements and main results: Patients preferred fecal occult blood testing (43%) or colonoscopy (40%). In patients for whom accuracy was the most important test feature, colonoscopy (62%) was the preferred screening method. Patients for whom invasive test features were more important preferred fecal occult blood testing (76%; P <.001). Patients and physicians were similar in their values regarding the various test features. However, there was a significant difference between physicians' perceptions of which test features were important to patients compared with the patients' actual responses (P <.001). The largest discrepancy was for accuracy (patient actual 54% vs physician opinion 15%) and discomfort (patient actual 15% vs physician opinion 64%).
Conclusions: Patients have distinct preferences for colorectal cancer screening tests that are associated with the importance placed on certain test features. Physicians incorrectly perceive those factors that are important to patients. Physicians should incorporate patient values in regard to certain test features when discussing colorectal cancer screening with their patients and when eliciting their screening preferences.