OBJECTIVES: Effectiveness of fecal occult blood test (FOBT) for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening depends on annual testing, but little is known about patterns of repeat stool-based screening within different settings. Our study’s objective was to characterize screening patterns and identify factors associated with repeat screening among patients who completed an index guaiac FOBT (gFOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT). METHODS: We performed a multi-center retrospective cohort study among people who completed a FOBT between January 2010 and December 2011 to characterize repeat screening patterns over the subsequent 3 years. We studied at 4 large health care delivery systems in the United States. Logistic regression analyses were used to identify factors associated with repeat screening patterns. We included individuals aged 50–71 years who completed an index FOBT and had at least 3 years of follow-up. We excluded people with a history of CRC, colonoscopy within 10 years or flexible sigmoidoscopy within 5 years before the index test, or positive index stool test. Consistent screening was defined as repeat FOBT within every 15 months and inconsistent screening as repeat testing at least once during follow-up but less than consistent screening. RESULTS: Among 959,857 eligible patients who completed an index FIT or gFOBT, 344,103 had three years of follow-up and met inclusion criteria. Of these, 46.6% had consistent screening, 43.4% inconsistent screening, and 10% had no repeat screening during follow-up. Screening patterns varied substantially across healthcare systems, with consistent screening proportions ranging from 1 to 54.3% and no repeat screening proportions ranging from 6.9 to 42.8%. Higher consistent screening proportions were observed in health systems with screening outreach and in-reach programs, whereas the safety-net health system, which uses opportunistic clinic-based screening, had the lowest consistent screening. Consistent screening increased with older age but was less common among racial/ethnic minorities and patients with more comorbidities. CONCLUSIONS: Adherence with annual FOBT screening is highly variable across healthcare delivery systems. Settings with more organized screening programs performed better than those with opportunistic screening, but evidence-based interventions are needed to improve CRC screening adherence in all settings.
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