Reaching 80% by 2018: How one health center is making the commitment to ramp up rates of colorectal cancer screenings

This year we are celebrating all of the innovative ways health centers create better lives for their communities. Today we are highlighting how health centers are leading the way in screenings to prevent illness in their communities. Today we are hearing about how Open Door Family Medical Center in Westchester County, New York, is working on the 80% by 2018 campaign launched by the American Cancer Society.

Earlier this summer, Open Door Family Medical Center in Westchester County, New York became one of over 1,000 organizations—including many health centers—to join the 80% by 2018 campaign. The campaign is an effort launched by the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health organizations are working towards a shared goal of regularly screening 80% of adults aged 50+ for colorectal cancer by 2018.

“The American Cancer Society recognizes and celebrates the unique value of Community Health Centers in improving the health of patients and communities, especially through cancer screening and other preventive health strategies,” said Morgan Daven, Strategic Director of Primary Care Systems at the American Cancer Society. “We are very encouraged by the success we are having as we work together to help more patients get the cancer screening resources they need.”

At Open Door, participating in 80% by 2018 made sense. “We are thrilled to be a part of this initiative, we think it’s so important. It is very much in sync with how we are trying to improve health care in general for our patients and our communities,” said Dr. Daren Wu, Family Physician and Open Door Chief Medical Officer. “At Open Door we’ve implemented a range of interventions and changes over the past several years, that we feel collectively have placed us in position where we think we are able to support patients much better in choosing to proceed with colon cancer screening.”

The health center has made changes in workflow and workplace strategies that have improved the way patients are screened and maximizes the time clinicians spend with the patient. They are using health data to improve their outreach to patients on health screenings, and also encouraging their clinical support staff—who see patients first—to initiate conversations about screenings, overdue vaccinations and more with patients.

“We want to make sure our clinicians limited clinical time with patients is maximized in the most efficient way when it comes to diagnosing and providing treatment plans, as well as, working on that relationship building with our patients,” said Dr. Wu.

It is not uncommon for health center patients to come in with a list of concerns, often when health issues have come to a point where they can no longer be ignored. Patients sometimes delay seeking care for a host of reasons that can include lack of access, language barriers or financial concerns. A large portion of Open Door’s patients are economically disadvantaged and uninsured.  Starting a conversation about the importance of cancer screening—especially for colorectal cancer—can be daunting, but Dr. Wu says it’s important to take the time to education the patient about screening options.

“In a primary care relationship, that is built on mutual respect and trust between a clinician and a patient, you have multiple conversations in the course of year that really lends itself to talk about breast cancer screenings, prostate screenings, and colon cancer screenings,” said Dr. Wu. “It’s over, sometimes, a span of several visits that these important conversations come up.”

Hear more from our conversation with Dr. Wu at the NACHC Health Center News Podcast:

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