Many older adults in the U.S. do not receive appropriate colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. Although primary care physicians’ recommendations to their patients are central to the screening process, little information is available about their recommendations in relation to guidelines for the menu of CRC screening modalities, including fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS), colonoscopy, and double contrast barium enema (DCBE). The objective of this study was to explore potentially modifiable physician and practice factors associated with guideline-consistent recommendations for the menu of CRC screening modalities.
We examined data from a nationally representative sample of 1266 physicians in the U.S. surveyed in 2007. The survey included questions about physician and practice characteristics, perceptions about screening, and recommendations for age of initiation and screening interval for FOBT, FS, colonoscopy and DCBE in average risk adults. Physicians’ screening recommendations were classified as guideline consistent for all, some, or none of the CRC screening modalities recommended. Analyses used descriptive statistics and polytomous logit regression models.
Few (19.1%; 95% CI:16.9%, 21.5%) physicians made guideline-consistent recommendations across all CRC screening modalities that they recommended. In multivariate analysis, younger physician age, board certification, north central geographic region, single specialty or multi-specialty practice type, fewer patients per week, higher number of recommended modalities, use of electronic medical records, greater influence of patient preferences for screening, and published clinical evidence were associated with guideline-consistent screening recommendations (p < 0.05).
Physicians’ CRC screening recommendations reflect both overuse and underuse, and few made guideline-consistent CRC screening recommendations across all modalities they recommended. Interventions that focus on potentially modifiable physician and practice factors that influence overuse and underuse and address the menu of recommended screening modalities will be important for improving screening practice.