What do you see?
- Are there geographic differences in screening rates? For example, are there differences in screening rates in rural areas compared to urban?
- What are some of the reasons that patients may not get the recommended screening?
- Are there any differences in completion rates for the various screening tests? What are some factors that could account for this?
Whether you’re a patient, provider, or health system administrator, thinking about why these differences might exist can start conversations and lead to solutions for improved quality of healthcare.
*Data courtesy of Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health
Understanding patient completion of screening tests
Doctors order screening tests to help with early detection of diseases in patients who they know are at risk of that disease, either because of family history or other factors such as age, gender or lifestyle. Early detection of disease is important because early treatment can reduce long term complications and improve outcomes and overall quality of care for patients. Eligible patients are those who research has shown will benefit the most from each screening test. Alberta follows similar guidelines as the rest of Canada about who should be offered screening tests, when they should receive them, and how often. These guidelines are different for each of the five different types of screening shown on this website. The percentage of eligible Albertans (i.e., those most likely to benefit from the test) who receive screening tests is affected by the actions of both doctors and patients. Doctors must offer screening to their patients, and patients must follow-through by going to the lab (e.g., for diabetes and lipid screening) or making and attending an appointment for certain types of tests (e.g., mammogram for breast cancer screening or colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening). Screening rates are an important measure of quality of care because early identification and treatment of disease can improve outcomes for patients.
Considerations when reviewing the results
- The information shows the percentage of patients who completed a screening test, not how many were offered a screening test.
- There are many factors that affect the rate of completed screening tests. This includes how often doctors offer the screening tests, patient acceptability and willingness to follow-through with a screening test, and availability of certain screening tests in some areas of the province.
Information about colorectal cancer screening
The FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) is the recommended method of colorectal cancer screening for most patients. It is a lab test done on a sample of the patient’s stool. Some patients may be screened using a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy which are procedures that allows healthcare providers to look inside the patient’s intestines for disease. The current guidelines used in Alberta for colorectal cancer screening are available here: https://www.topalbertadoctors.org/download/1009/colorectal_guideline.pdf.
The Health Quality Council of Alberta uses the Alberta Quality Matrix for Health as a way of organizing information and thinking around the complexity of the healthcare system. The information in this chart can be used as input to think and have conversations about primary healthcare in Alberta using the lens of the dimensions of quality shown on the right:
Dimensions of Quality