NYMC Faculty Publications

Implementation of a Low-Cost Quality Improvement Intervention Increases Adherence to Cancer Screening Guidelines and Reduces Healthcare Costs at a University Medical Center

Journal Title

Journal of Cancer Education

Document Type


Publication Date

May 2019




Adherence to US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) cancer screening guidelines remains considerably lower than the recommendation of the Healthy People 2020 initiative. Patient populations recommended for screening are not screened at an appropriate rate, and populations not recommended for screening are inappropriately screened. Closer adherence to guidelines should improve outcomes and reduce costs, estimated to reach $158 billion/year by 2020. We evaluated whether a use of low-cost educational health maintenance (HM) card by medical residents at a university hospital could impact education and adherence to updated cancer screening guidelines. We also analyzed savings to the healthcare system. Adherence to cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer screening guidelines, defined as percentage that was screened (or not screened) in accordance with the USPSTF guidelines, in clinic visits from December 2012 (n = 336) was compared to those from December 2013 (n = 306) after a quality improvement intervention. Post-intervention, adherence to screening guidelines increased by 40.8% (p < 0.01) for cervical, 33.2% (p < 0.01) for breast, and 20.5% (p < 0.01) for colorectal cancer in average-risk patients. Inappropriate screening was reduced by 26.8% (p < 0.01) for cervical and 32.8% (p < 0.01) for breast cancer. A non-significant 1.1% decrease (p = 0.829) was observed for colorectal cancer. The annual potential savings from avoiding inappropriate screenings were $998,316 (95% CI; $644,484-$1,352,148). We showed a significant absolute increase in USPSTF knowledge of 28.3% irrespective of the house staff level that remained high at 2 years from the educational intervention. The low-cost HM card increased appropriate knowledgeable cancer screening adherence while reducing unnecessary testing and producing substantial savings to the healthcare system.