Partnering on Strategies to Increase Screening Rates
Colorectal cancer is one of the few forms of cancer that is preventable, treatable and beatable. That’s why it’s so important to get regular screenings beginning at age 50, and sooner if there are risk factors.
Even though these tests can save lives, many people still aren’t getting screened. “One of the biggest barriers to getting screened is fear of the test itself,” explained MaineHealth Chief Medical Officer Joan Boomsma, MD. “However, various screening options are available, including simple take-home options.” MaineHealth, in collaboration with system and community partners, has implemented a number of successful strategies to boost screening rates in our communities.
Since 2015, the Maine Cancer Foundation (MCF) has provided over $500,000 to MaineHealth to increase access to colorectal cancer screening. One of these projects focuses on educating community members about screening with the help of a mobile health unit. Operated through the Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County, the public health affiliate of Franklin Community Health Network, the unit distributes the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), a non-invasive screening test that people can complete in the privacy of their own homes. To date, nearly 100 FIT kits have been returned to the lab with 16 percent of those testing positive and referred for follow-up.
Patient outreach is another strategy used to increase screening rates. With MCF grant funding, the City of Portland’s community health outreach workers partnered with Maine Medical Partners Family Medicine to help reach patients who do not speak English. Patients due for screening are identified using our electronic health record and then contacted to learn more about their options, including the FIT.
The MaineHealth Prevention and Wellness Program works closely with MaineHealth members and affiliates to track screening rates and share best practices for increasing patient screening. The MaineHealth Cancer Care Network is also a key partner in linking the clinical setting to community outreach efforts.
“Thanks to the efforts of our dedicated health professionals across the system, more patients are now being screened for colorectal cancer than ever before,” said Dr. Boomsma. The percentage of patients at primary care practices within the MaineHealth system who were screened for colorectal cancer rose from 65 percent in December 2016 to 75 percent in July 2018.
Improving Access to Lung Cancer Screening
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and Maine has one of the highest smoking rates in the country — 15.3 percent of Mainers report they smoke every day vs. 12.4 percent nationally.
MaineHealth is a partner in the Maine Lung Cancer Coalition, a statewide, multi-institution, multidisciplinary initiative to improve the prevention, early detection and treatment of lung cancer in Maine, funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, Maine Cancer Foundation and Maine Economic Improvement Fund.
The coalition also engages in health policy advocacy, and is working with its partners to build the capacity to collect and track patient screening and lung cancer diagnosis numbers. There are currently 18 screening sites in Maine from York to Aroostook County that offer low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) or a CAT scan to look for lung cancer at very early stages, when it can be most effectively treated.
The MaineHealth Cancer Care Network offers comprehensive lung cancer screening services to test people at high risk for lung cancer. As a result of efforts across the network to invest in resources such as patient navigators and data surveillance systems, the number of people screened for lung cancer through the network increased from 180 in 2016 to 987 in 2017. This growth is also a reflection of the increasing recognition of the value of lung cancer screening for detecting new cases earlier.