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Patient Trust in Physician Influences Colorectal Cancer Screening in Low-Income Patients

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Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening is effective but underutilized. Although physician recommendation is an important predictor of screening, considerable variation in CRC screening completion remains.


To characterize the influence of patient trust in care providers on CRC screening behavior.


Data were collected as part of a cluster-randomized CRC screening intervention trial performed in the San Francisco Community Health Network from March 2007 to January 2012 (analysis, Spring 2012). All study participants received a recommendation to complete CRC screening from their primary care provider (PCP). Included participants were aged 50-79 years, not current with screening, and completed the Wake Forest Trust Scale (WFTS) measuring trust in PCPs and doctors in general. Primary outcome was CRC screening completion (colonoscopy or fecal occult blood testing) within 12 months following enrollment. Multivariable association adjusted for race/ethnicity, language, and other sociodemographics was estimated using generalized estimating equations with logit link and binomial distribution.


WFTS response was 70.3% (701). Most participants (83%) were Latino, Asian, or black. Most had income <$30,000 (96%) and public health insurance (86%). Higher trust in PCP was associated with screening completion (OR=1.11, 95% CI=1.03, 1.17), but trust in doctors was not (OR=1.02, 95% CI=0.82, 1.28). Race, language, and other sociodemographic factors were not significant in multivariable analysis.


After controlling for traditional factors, trust in PCP remained the only significant driver of CRC screening completion in low-income patients. Interventions to promote CRC screening may be improved by including efforts to enhance patient trust in PCP.

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