Prescribe for health. Improving cancer screening in physician practices serving low-income and minority populations

Arch Fam Med. 1998 Jul-Aug;7(4):329-37. doi: 10.1001/archfami.7.4.329.


Objective: To evaluate a health maintenance organization (HMO)-sponsored intervention to improve cancer screening in private physician practices serving low-income, minority populations.

Design: A randomized controlled trial with preintervention and postintervention measurements. Measurements were obtained by abstracting information from independent random samples of medical charts (N = 2316 at preintervention and 2238 at postintervention).

Setting: Forty-seven primary care physician practices located in low-income and minority urban neighborhoods in Chicago, Ill.

Intervention: Practices were encouraged to adopt an office chart reminder system and to use a patient health maintenance card. Activities to facilitate the adoption of these items and for compliance with cancer screening guidelines included on-site training and start-up assistance visits, a physician continuing medical education seminar, and quality assurance visits with feedback to physicians.

Main outcome measures: The proportions of patients with a chart-documented mammogram, clinical breast examination, Papanicolaou smear, or fecal occult blood slide test in the 2 years before preintervention and postintervention chart abstractions.

Results: Between baseline and postintervention, there was a net increase in the proportion of HMO members in the intervention, compared with the control practices, who received in the preceding 2 years a Papanicolaou smear (11.9%) and a fecal occult blood slide test (14.1%). There was a net increase in the proportion of non-HMO patients in the intervention compared with the control practices who received a clinical breast examination (15.3%) and a fecal occult blood slide test (20.2%).

Conclusions: Implementation of an HMO-mediated, multicomponent intervention to improve cancer screening was feasible and effective for the Papanicolaou smear, fecal occult blood slide test, and the clinical breast examination, but not for mammography.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Chicago
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medically Underserved Area*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Health