Primary Care Collaboration to Improve Diagnosis and Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2017 Jul;43(7):338-350. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjq.2017.03.004. Epub 2017 Apr 19.


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer death, reducible by screening and early diagnosis, yet many patients fail to receive recommended screening. As part of an academic improvement collaborative, 25 primary care practices worked to improve CRC screening and diagnosis.

Methods: The project featured triannual learning sessions, monthly conference calls, practice coach support, and monthly reporting. The project phases included literature review and interviews with national leaders/organizations, development of driver diagrams to identify key factors and change ideas, project launch and practice team planning, and a practice improvement phase.

Results: The project activities included (1) inventory of barriers and best practices, (2) driver diagram to drive improvements, (3) list of changes to try, (4) compilation of lessons learned, and (5) five key changes to optimize screening and follow-up. Practices leveraged prior transformation efforts to track patients for screening and follow-up during and between office visits. By mapping processes, testing changes, and collecting data, sites targeted opportunities to improve quality, safety, efficiency, and patient and care team experience. Successful change interventions centered around partnering with gastroenterology, engaging leadership, leveraging registries and health information technology, promoting alternative screening options, and partnering with and supporting patients. Several practices achieved improvement in screening rates, while others demonstrated no change from baseline during the 10-month testing and implementation phase (July 2014-April 2015).

Conclusion: The collaborative effectively engaged teams in a broad set of process improvements with key lessons learned related to barriers, information technology challenges, outreach challenges/strategies, and importance of stakeholder and patient engagement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Communication
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Program Development
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Staff Development / organization & administration*
  • Workflow