Timely Follow-Up of Positive Fecal Occult Blood Tests. Strategies Associated with Improvement

Adam A. Powell, Amy A. Gravely, Diana L. Ordin, James E. Schlosser, Melissa R. Partin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: In light of previous research indicating that many patients fail to receive timely diagnostic follow-up of positive colorectal cancer (CRC) screening tests, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) initiated a national CRC diagnosis quality-improvement (QI) effort. Purpose: This article documents the percent of patients receiving follow-up within 60 days of a positive CRC screening fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and identifies improvement strategies that predict timely follow-up. Methods: In 2007, VA facilities completed a survey in which they indicated the degree to which they had implemented a series of improvement strategies and described barriers to improvement. Three types of strategies were assessed: developing QI infrastructure, improving care delivery processes, and building gastroenterology capacity. Survey data were merged with a measure of 60-day positive-FOBT follow-up. Facility-level predictors of timely follow-up were identified and relationships among categories of improvement strategies were assessed. Data were analyzed in 2008. Results: The median facility-reported 60-day follow-up rate for positive screening FOBTs was 24.5%. Several strategies were associated with timeliness of follow-up. The relationship between the implementation of QI infrastructure strategies and timely follow-up was mediated by the implementation of process-change strategies. Although constraints on gastroenterology capacity were often sited as a key barrier, implementation of strategies to address this issue was unassociated with timely follow-up. Conclusions: Developing QI infrastructure appears to be an effective strategy for improving FOBT follow-up when this work is followed by process improvements. Increasing gastroenterology capacity may be more difficult than improving processes of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009

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