Reasons for Lack of Diagnostic Colonoscopy After Positive Result on Fecal Immunochemical Test in a Safety-Net Health System

Jason Martin, Ethan A. Halm, Jasmin A. Tiro, Zahra Merchant, Bijal A. Balasubramanian, Katharine McCallister, Joanne M. Sanders, Chul Ahn, Wendy Pechero Bishop, Amit G. Singal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Background Effective colorectal cancer screening depends on timely diagnostic evaluation in patients with abnormal results on fecal immunochemical tests (FITs). Although prior studies suggest low rates of follow-up colonoscopy, there is little information among patients in safety-net health systems and few data characterizing reasons for low follow-up rates. This study aimed to characterize factors contributing to lack of follow-up colonoscopy in a racially diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged cohort of patients with abnormal results on FIT (“abnormal FIT” for brevity) receiving care in an integrated safety-net health system. Methods We performed a retrospective electronic medical record review of patients aged 50-64 years with abnormal FIT at a population-based safety-net health system between January 2010 and July 2013. Review of electronic medical records focused on patients without follow-up colonoscopy to characterize patient-, provider-, and system-level reasons for lack of diagnostic evaluation. We used logistic regression analysis to identify predictors of follow-up colonoscopy within 12 months of abnormal FIT. Results Of 1267 patients with abnormal FIT, 536 (42.3%) failed to undergo follow-up colonoscopy within 1 year. Failure was attributable to patient-level factors in 307 (57%) cases, provider factors in 97 (18%) cases, and system factors in 118 (22%) cases. In multivariate analysis, follow-up colonoscopy was less likely among those aged 61-64 years (odds ratio 0.63, 95% confidence interval 0.46–0.87) compared with 50-55 year olds. Conclusions Nearly half (42%) of patients with abnormal FIT failed to undergo follow-up colonoscopy within 1 year. Lack of diagnostic evaluation is related to a combination of patient-, provider-, and system-level factors, highlighting the need for multilevel interventions to improve follow-up colonoscopy completion rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93.e1-93.e7
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • Fecal immunochemical test
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Safety-net health system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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