Family Medicine

The Need for Office Systems to Improve Colorectal Cancer Screening


Patients generally access colorectal cancer (CRC) screening through primary care physicians. National guidelines recommend CRC screening for adults beginning at age 50, yet one-third of Americans are not up to date.

Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was administered to family physicians from 16 practices in a Midwestern state who attended an information session for a randomized study to improve CRC screening. The questionnaire assessed CRC screening practices, knowledge of CRC screening guidelines, and office strategies for improving screening. d

Results: Of 131 health care providers, 85 (65%) completed the questionnaire. Two-thirds were aware of the CRC screening guidelines; 91% knew that the follow-up interval for screening depends on the test chosen. Twenty-five percent incorrectly stated that a single-sample in-office fecal occult blood test is an acceptable screening test. Only 8% had a written policy regarding CRC screening; 18% had offices that used chart reminders; and 32% had charts organized to easily identify patient screening status. Regarding perceptions, those who agreed that they encourage their office staff to participate in screening estimated that they offer screening to more patients than those who disagreed (82.8% vs 70.2%, P < .0001); in addition, those who agreed with and tried to follow the guidelines estimated that they offer screening to more patients than those who disagreed (77.4% vs 60.5%, P = .004).

Conclusion: Although physicians were knowledgeable about CRC screening guidelines, 25% mistakenly believed that single-sample in-office fecal testing was appropriate. There was a striking lack of office systems for identifying eligible patients and facilitating CRC screening.


Levy, B. T., Daly, J. M., Schmidt, E, & Xu, Y. (2012). The need for office systems to improve colorectal cancer screening. Journal of Primary Care and Community Health. 3(3), 180-186.

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