American Cancer Society Uses AHRQ Resources to Support Primary Care Practices in Increasing Cancer Screenings
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is using AHRQ’s Primary Care Practice Facilitation Curriculum to train more than 100 ACS staff members who work with primary care practices across the country. As a result of the initial pilot training, the ACS reported that its facilitators were better prepared to help practices increase cancer screenings, including recommended screening for colon, cervical, and breast cancers.
While the ACS is known for its work to promote cancer prevention and early detection, it is also committed to engaging primary care practices in delivering evidence-based cancer screenings to patients. ACS staff members were searching for ways to better engage busy primary care professionals when they discovered AHRQ’s work on practice facilitation. After reviewing the materials, the ACS launched a pilot program built around resources from AHRQ’s curriculum.
Practice facilitation, also known as practice coaching, is an evidence-based strategy that delivers organizational development, project management, and quality improvement to practice teams through an ongoing relationship with a trusted facilitator. These skills are usually customized to meet the needs and goals of individual practices and may be targeted to specific topics, such as increasing cancer screenings. The comprehensive AHRQ curriculum—available at no charge—includes more than 30 modules that develop the knowledge and skills facilitators need to support meaningful improvement in primary care practices.
ACS staff members across the country are using their new skills to help primary care practices better serve patients in private practices, primary care facilities, community health centers, and federally qualified health centers.
"Practice facilitation helps our frontline staff establish relevance, build quality improvement capacity at health centers, and make sustainable systems changes to improve health outcomes," explained Laurie Jensen-Wunder, ACS’s vice president for health systems. "With a consistent staffing structure across the organization, we are well positioned for nationwide impact."
Training with the AHRQ resources helped ACS staffers build coaching skills and understand quality improvement tools and techniques.
Health centers in California, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington State agreed to participate in the pilot project. The initiative is being expanded in 2016 and beyond, Ms. Jensen-Wunder said.
Early successes for facilitators trained with AHRQ’s materials include:
- After analyzing its workflow, a Minnesota clinic reorganized staffing to boost breast cancer screening rates. Restructured quality improvement meetings increased the focus on data analysis.
- In Maine, a clinic documented its cervical cancer screening rate, then developed an assessment to record ongoing progress in increasing that rate. System changes were implemented to identify patients recommended for screening.
- A Pennsylvania clinic’s chief medical officer used the training resources as part of his presentation to the clinic’s quality improvement team and asked the ACS for input on restructuring the clinic’s quality improvement department.
"AHRQ’s investment in practice facilitation has helped us develop a workforce prepared to advocate for continuous quality improvement and demonstrate that we can positively impact important cancer screening measures," Ms. Jensen-Wunder noted.