Publication Abstract

Authors: Nadel MR, Berkowitz Z, Klabunde CN, Smith RA, Coughlin SS, White MC

Title: Fecal occult blood testing beliefs and practices of U.S. primary care physicians: serious deviations from evidence-based recommendations.

Journal: J Gen Intern Med 25(8):833-9

Date: 2010 Aug

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) is an important option for colorectal cancer screening that should be available in order to achieve high population screening coverage. However, results from a national survey of clinical practice in 1999-2000 indicated that many primary care physicians used inadequate methods to implement FOBT screening and follow-up. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether methods to screen for fecal occult blood have improved, including the use of newer more sensitive stool tests. DESIGN: Cross-sectional national survey of primary care physicians. PARTICIPANTS: Participants consisted of 1,134 primary care physicians who reported ordering or performing FOBT in the 2006-2007 National Survey of Primary Care Physicians' Recommendations and Practices for Cancer Screening. MAIN MEASURES: Self-reported data on details of FOBT implementation and follow-up of positive results. RESULTS: Most physicians report using standard guaiac tests; higher sensitivity guaiac tests and immunochemical tests were reported by only 22.0% and 8.9%, respectively. In-office testing, that is, testing of a single specimen collected during a digital rectal examination in the office, is still widely used although inappropriate for screening: 24.9% of physicians report using only in-office tests and another 52.9% report using both in-office and home tests. Recommendations improved for follow-up after a positive test: fewer physicians recommend repeating the FOBT (17.8%) or using tests other than colonoscopy for the diagnostic work-up (6.6%). Only 44.3% of physicians who use home tests have reminder systems to ensure test completion and return. CONCLUSIONS: Many physicians continue to use inappropriate methods to screen for fecal occult blood. Intensified efforts to inform physicians of recommended technique and promote the use of tracking systems are needed.