Identifying quality improvement targets to facilitate colorectal cancer screening completion

Simon J.Craddock Lee, Stephen J. Inrig, Bijal A. Balasubramanian, Celette Sugg Skinner, Robin T. Higashi, Katharine McCallister, Wendy Pechero Bishop, Noel O. Santini, Jasmin A. Tiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The colorectal cancer (CRC) screening process involves multiple interfaces (communication exchanges and transfers of responsibility for specific actions) among primary care and gastroenterology providers, laboratory, and administrative staff. After a retrospective electronic health record (EHR) analysis discovered substantial clinic variation and low CRC screening prevalence overall in an urban, integrated safety-net system, we launched a qualitative analysis to identify potential quality improvement targets to enhance fecal immunochemical test (FIT) completion, the system's preferred screening modality. Here, we report examination of organization-, clinic-, and provider-level interfaces over a three-year period (December 2011–October 2014). We deployed in parallel 3 qualitative data collection methods: (1) structured observation (90+ hours, 10 sites); (2) document analysis (n > 100); and (3) semi-structured interviews (n = 41) and conducted iterative thematic analysis in which findings from each method cross-informed subsequent data collection. Thematic analysis was guided by a conceptual model and applied deductive and inductive codes. There was substantial variation in protocols for distributing and returning FIT kits both within and across clinics. Providers, clinic and laboratory staff had differing access to important data about FIT results based on clinical information system used and this affected results reporting. Communication and coordination during electronic referrals for diagnostic colonoscopy was suboptimal particularly for co-morbid patients needing anesthesia clearance. Our multi-level approach elucidated organizational deficiencies not evident by quantitative analysis alone. Findings indicate potential quality improvement intervention targets including: (1) best-practices implementation across clinics; (2) detailed communication to providers about FIT results; and (3) creation of EHR alerts to resolve pending colonoscopy referrals before they expire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-143
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Cancer screening
  • Evaluation methodology
  • Health services research
  • Information technology
  • Qualitative research
  • Quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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