Development of a Pap smear quality-assurance system in family practice

Fam Med. 1993 Feb;25(2):135-9.


Background and objectives: To improve the effectiveness of cervical cancer screening, quality assurance programs can be designed to ensure that normal Pap smear results are dealt with appropriately and that Pap smears yielding inadequate specimen material are brought to a physician's attention. The objective of this study was to use a new Pap Smear Quality Assurance (PAPQA) system to determine and monitor the performance of physicians in a family practice over a two-year period.

Methods: We developed a PAPQA system designed to gather data and report on: 1) Pap smear adequacy, 2) reporting of abnormal results to physicians, and 3) follow-up of patients who had abnormal Pap smear results. We followed these parameters for two years.

Results: Over a two-year period, 2,771 cervical Pap smears were performed, of which 64% were normal. The percentage of Pap smears that yielded adequate specimen material improved from 82% to 91%, an improvement we attributed to feedback the system provided to physicians. Overall, Pap smear results and follow-up appeared in the medical record of 94% of patients who had abnormal findings. However, during the second year, the quality assurance system detected a deterioration in documentation of results and follow-up plans that coincided with moving the practice to a new facility. The operating cost for this program was approximately $950 per year.

Conclusions: Quality assurance programs can effectively monitor physicians' performance in dealing with abnormal Pap smears, can detect deteriorations in performance, and can improve some aspects of performance through feedback reporting to physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Family Practice / organization & administration
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • North Carolina
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Vaginal Smears / standards*