Improving the effectiveness of fecal occult blood testing in a primary care clinic by direct colonoscopy referral for positive tests

J Healthc Qual. Nov-Dec 2010;32(6):62-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1945-1474.2009.00071.x.


Fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) is recommended by national guidelines for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening and has been shown to reduce both the incidence and mortality of CRC. FOBT screening is a complex process and little is known concerning the best methods for implementing FOBT screening in primary care clinics. The purpose of this study was to determine if direct gastroenterology (GI) service notification of all positive FOBT results in improved time for provider response and colonoscopy. The secondary aims were to determine to what extent implementation of FOBT screening was appropriate in a large primary care clinic and correlate this with findings from colonoscopy. Data were collected prospectively following implementation of a direct referral strategy and compared with two retrospective time periods during which the ordering practitioners were responsible for follow-up of all positive FOBT. Implementation of immediate GI referral of positive tests eliminated improper and neglected follow-up, and resulted in shorter delays in provider response time and colonoscopy completion. Inappropriate use of FOBT was observed in 49% of patients, indicating that further interventions in primary care clinics to improve the quality of FOBT screening are necessary.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colonic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colonoscopy*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / standards*
  • Feces*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Predictive Value of Tests*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation*