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Timely Colonoscopy After Positive Fecal Immunochemical Tests in the Veterans Health Administration: A Qualitative Assessment of Current Practice and Perceived Barriers



The Veterans Health Administration introduced a clinical reminder system in 2018 to help address process gaps in colorectal cancer screening, including the diagnostic evaluation of positive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) results. We conducted a qualitative study to explore the differences between facilities who performed in the top vs bottom decile for follow-up colonoscopy.


Seventeen semistructured interviews with gastroenterology (GI) providers and staff were conducted at 9 high-performing and 8 low-performing sites.


We identified 2 domains, current practices and perceived barriers, and most findings were described by both high- and low-performing sites. Findings exclusive to 1 group mainly pertained to current practices, especially arranging colonoscopy for FIT-positive patients. We observed only 1 difference in the perceived barriers domain, which pertained to primary care providers.


These results suggest that what primarily distinguishes high- and low-performing sites is not a difference in barriers but rather in the GI clinical care process. Developing and disseminating patient education materials about the importance of diagnostic colonoscopy, eliminating in-person precolonoscopy visits when clinically appropriate, and involving GI in missed colonoscopy appointments and outside referrals should all be considered to increase follow-up colonoscopy rates. Our study illustrates the challenges of performing a timely colonoscopy after a positive FIT result and provides insights on improving the clinical care process for patients who are at substantially increased risk for colorectal cancer.

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