An observational study of workflows to support fecal testing for colorectal cancer screening in primary care practices serving Medicaid enrollees

BMC Cancer. 2022 Jan 25;22(1):106. doi: 10.1186/s12885-021-09106-7.


Background: Screening supports early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC). Provision of fecal immunochemical tests/fecal occult blood tests (FIT/FOBT) in primary care can increase CRC screening, particularly in populations experiencing health disparities. This study was conducted to describe clinical workflows for FIT/FOBT in Oregon primary care practices and to identify specific workflow processes that might be associated (alone or in combination) with higher (versus lower) CRC screening rates.

Methods: Primary care practices were rank ordered by CRC screening rates in Oregon Medicaid enrollees who turned age 50 years from January 2013 to June 2014 (i.e., newly age-eligible). Practices were recruited via purposive sampling based on organizational characteristics and CRC screening rates. Data collected were from surveys, observation visits, and informal interviews, and used to create practice-level CRC screening workflow reports. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, qualitative data analysis using an immersion-crystallization process, and a matrix analysis approach.

Results: All participating primary care practices (N=9) used visit-based workflows, and four higher performing and two lower performing used population outreach workflows to deliver FIT/FOBTs. However, higher performing practices (n=5) had more established workflows and staff to support activities. Visit-based strategies in higher performing practices included having dedicated staff identify patients due for CRC screening and training medical assistants to review FIT/FOBT instructions with patients. Population outreach strategies included having clinic staff generate lists and check them for accuracy prior to direct mailing of kits to patients. For both workflow types, higher performing clinics routinely utilized systems for patient reminders and follow-up after FIT/FOBT distribution.

Conclusions: Primary care practices with higher CRC screening rates among newly age-eligible Medicaid enrollees had more established visit-based and population outreach workflows to support identifying patients due for screening, FIT/FOBT distribution, reminders, and follow up. Key to practices with higher CRC screening was having medical assistants discuss and review FIT/FOBT screening and instructions with patients. Findings present important workflow processes for primary care practices and may facilitate the implementation of evidence-based interventions into real-world, clinical settings.

Keywords: colorectal cancer; early detection of cancer; population health; primary health care; underserved populations; workflow.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Oregon
  • Postal Service / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Workflow*