Improving the Implementation of Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines at an Academic Primary Care Practice

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Expert groups recommend annual chest computed tomography for lung cancer screening (LCS) in high-risk patients. Lung cancer screening in primary care is a complex process that includes identification of the at-risk population, comorbidity assessment, and shared decision making. We identified three key processes required for high-quality screening implementation in our academic primary care practice: (1) systematic collection of lifetime cumulative smoking history to identify potentially eligible patients; (2) visit-based clinical reminders and order sets embedded in the electronic health record (EHR); and (3) tools to facilitate shared decision making and appropriate test ordering. We applied quality improvement techniques to address gaps in these processes. Over 12 months, we developed and implemented a nurse protocol for collecting complete smoking history and entering that data into discrete EHR fields. We obtained histories on over 50% of the clinic's more than 2,300 known current and former smokers, aged 55–80 years. We then built and pilot tested an automated visit-based reminder (VBR) system, driven by the discrete smoking history data. The VBR included an order set and template for documentation of shared decision making. Physicians interacted with the VBR in approximately 30% of opportunities for use. Further work is needed to better understand how to systematically provide appropriate LCS in primary care environments.

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