Best practice gears

Colorectal cancer is preventable when individuals are screened. The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) began a quality improvement movement to save lives by setting an ambitious goal for 80% of adults aged 50 and older to be regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. Achieving 80% by 2018 would prevent 277,000 cases and 203,000 deaths from colorectal cancer by 2030.

The Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) joined the effort and was awarded Special Innovation Project (SIP) funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to promote colorectal cancer screening efforts in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The SIP project ends January 31, 2018, and Great Plains QIN is celebrating the momentum and impact of the training events, resources and strong region-wide partnerships resulting from the project.

“The NCCRT goal of 80% by 2018 was an eye-opener for the healthcare system as a whole to recognize the need and potential impact for improvement,” recalled Judy Beck, North Dakota state program director for Great Plains QIN. “Colorectal cancer screening rates in the four states we serve are low. The SIP project allowed us to take full advantage of the focus created by the NCCRT’s 80% by 2018 initiative.”

Initial improvement efforts for healthcare facilities at all levels began with the American Cancer Society’s Primary Care Clinician’s Evidence-Based Toolbox and Guide’s four essentials

  1. Make a recommendation
  2. Develop a screening policy
  3. Be persistent with reminders
  4. Measure practice progress

Great Plains QIN quality improvement staff supported healthcare facilities across the region in the development of screening goals, policy change, patient reminders and reporting using electronic health records. The addition of the FluFIT program promoted the annual influenza vaccination and fecal immunochemical test (FIT) for average-risk individuals.

“Colonoscopy is the most familiar screening option for colorectal cancer, but long distance and cost are big obstacles to overcome,” added Beck. “Promoting and educating on other colorectal cancer screening methods, including the annual FIT, was a benefit for those in rural and low-income populations.”

Coal Country Community Health Centers, a federally qualified health center in rural North Dakota, promoted the FIT using an especially effective community approach and earned the 2016 80% by 2018 Grand Champion award. Using education opportunities to highlight Coal Country’s best practices and promote additional tools and resources further fueled the fire for improvement.

As healthcare systems, federally qualified health centers and stakeholders across the region saw results, quality improvement efforts around colorectal cancer screening expanded. Collaborating with the American Cancer Society, state departments of health and other coalitions across the region in the following year earned the Great Plains QIN a 2017 80% by 2018 honoree award.

(Pictured: State program directors Nancy Beaumont and Judy Beck viewing the colorectal cancer screening promotion in Times Square during the Colorectal Cancer Kick-off in March 2017.)

While the SIP project comes to a close for Great Plains QIN, doors continue to open for improving colorectal cancer screening in the region. Healthcare systems, stakeholders and government agencies continue to develop solutions to overcome barriers because colorectal cancer is preventable when individuals are screened.