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Colorectal Cancer Screening Among Primary Care Physicians of the Swiss Sentinel Surveillance Network

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT03552744
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : June 12, 2018
Last Update Posted : June 19, 2019
Swiss National Science Foundation
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
University of Bern

Brief Summary:

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third leading cause of cancer mortality in Switzerland, and kills 1600 people annually. Most deaths could be prevented by screening, but the 2012 Swiss national health survey found that only 40% of 50-75-year-olds had been tested within recommended intervals (26% with colonoscopy in the last 10 year, 7% with fecal occult blood test [FOBT] in the last 2 years, and 7% with both). If screening starts at age 50, in the average risk population absolute risk of dying from CRC at age 80 can be cut from 2% to 1%, reducing relative risk by 50%. Since 2013, Switzerland has reimbursed screening by colonoscopy every 10 years or FOBT every 2 years for adults 50-69 years old. Conforming to current recommendations, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) officially recognizes both screening modalities.

When patients are offered a choice of screening test (colonoscopy vs. FOBT), they are as likely to opt for one as the other. Patient preferences are unlikely to vary much between PCP practices, so distribution of colonoscopy and FOBT within each practice should also be roughly equal. Family physicians are recognized as the most trusted professional to discuss CRC screening in Switzerland. However, many primary care physicians (PCPs) prefer prescribing colonoscopy over FOBT, but physician preference for method seems to vary widely between regions. If physician preferences and local medical culture currently influence choice of method more strongly than patient preferences, encouraging PCPs to diagnose patient preferences for screening method may reduce the number of PCPs who prescribe only one method. An earlier study in Switzerland showed that training PCPs and giving them educational support and decision aids raised the number who intend to prescribe colonoscopy and FOBT in equal proportions. A randomized controlled trial in the US showed that when patients were offered both FOBT and colonoscopy rather than only colonoscopy alone, more patients were screened for CRC. Offering choice of method may thus increase overall screening rates.

The Swiss Sentinel Surveillance Network (Sentinella) is a cooperative surveillance project including the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), PCPs representatives and the five Swiss institutes of family medicine. A sample of 150 to 250 general practitioners, internists and pediatricians in private practices from all regions of Switzerland report weekly morbidity data to the network using irreversibly anonymized patient data collected during consultations. In 2017, 91 out of 129 eligible PCPs of the Sentinella network participated in a cross-sectional data collection on CRC screening. The Sentinella network appears ideally suited to perform an intervention in order to modify screening practices and measure outcomes using the same collection form as in 2017.

This study will test the benefits of a prepackaged training program in participatory medicine sent by post to PCPs in Switzerland. The package is designed to improve their diagnoses of patient preferences for screening and screening method (colonoscopy or FOBT). The study begins with the hypothesis that giving PCPs evidence summaries on CRC screening, decision aids for patients, and performance feedback on the 2017 data collection will increase the number of PCPs whose patients include at least one screened with FOBT, and who will prescribe at least one FOBT/FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) instead of prescribing only colonoscopy. This might reduce variation in care between PCP practices by increasing variation in methods of screening prescribed within each PCP practices. Analyses from the 2017 data collection suggest that fewer patients refused CRC testing in practices that offered both methods than in practices that offered only colonoscopy. This intervention might increase screening rates overall, while respecting patient's autonomy to refuse the test and to be prescribed the test they prefer.

The study will compare outcomes among PCPs allocated to the intervention group to those in the control group, and will be measured by collecting anonymous structured patient data on 40 consecutive patients by PCPs and questionnaires filled by PCPs.

The study is designed to fit within the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation and Maintenance (RE-AIM) framework for structuring data collection. RE-AIM ensures that a study's outcomes for future implementation and dissemination works are collected. The RE-AIM criteria will be used to identify the translatability and public health impact of this intervention, and for making clear to future stakeholders the internal and external validity of study results.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Colorectal Cancer Other: Mailed training intervention Not Applicable

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 109 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Screening
Official Title: Colorectal Cancer Testing in Swiss Primary Care: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial Among Primary Care Physicians of the Swiss Sentinel Surveillance Network
Actual Study Start Date : April 26, 2018
Actual Primary Completion Date : April 1, 2019
Actual Study Completion Date : April 1, 2019

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: Intervention group Other: Mailed training intervention

PCPs from the intervention group will be mailed an intervention package that includes:

  1. 2-page structured evidence summary on CRC screening and information about Colonoscopy & FIT ("Decision box")
  2. patient decision aid (20-page booklet) on CRC screening for distribution to patients (Decision Aid)
  3. video example for the PCP, which illustrates a participatory approach to discussing CRC screening with a patient
  4. 4-page abridged version of the booklet to support PCPs when they discuss CRC screening with patients during a clinical visit ("Decision Board")
  5. individualized 1-page summary of PCP screening practices comparing their individual prescription patterns to group patterns, based on the data collected in 2017 ("Performance card")
  6. 2-page document that encourages PCPs still using the inferior guaiac-based FOBT to switch to FIT and includes list of laboratories from which they can order FIT
  7. sample FIT for PCPs who may not be familiar with its contents and use

No Intervention: Control group

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Number of PCPs who have at least one patient ever tested with FOBT, or who prescribe at least one FOBT to eligible patients (patients not already tested within recommended intervals, with no contra-indication for screening). [ Time Frame: At 3 months after intervention ]
    PCPs systematically collect data from 40 consecutive patients, aged 50-75 years

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Number of PCPs whose proportion of patients previously tested or planning to be tested with FOBT/colonoscopy is at least 40% (the PCP must have discussed screening with these patients, who have no symptoms or risk factors for CRC [ Time Frame: At 3 months after intervention ]
    PCPs systematically collect data from 40 consecutive patients, aged 50-75 years

  2. Number of PCPs who discussed CRC with >50% of their eligible patients (patients not tested within recommended intervals, with no contra-indications for CRC screening) [ Time Frame: At 3 months after intervention ]
    PCPs systematically collect data from 40 consecutive patients, aged 50-75 years

  3. Change in PCPs' future intentions to prescribe CRC screening tests [ Time Frame: At 3 months after intervention ]
    A questionnaire completed by participating PCPs

  4. Change in PCPs' future intentions to prescribe colonoscopy vs. FOBT over the next 6 months [ Time Frame: At 3 months after intervention ]
    A questionnaire completed by participating PCPs

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

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Ages Eligible for Study:   50 Years to 75 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Physician-level: PCPs participating in the Swiss Sentinel Surveillance Network (Sentinella) willing to participate in the study
  • Patient-level: Each PCP will collect data on 40 consecutive patients aged 50 to 75 years old seen in PCP offices over a 2 weeks to 2 months period. Patients will be included if there is a face-to-face consultation billed for at least 5 minutes at the practice.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • None except criteria which do not respect inclusion criteria

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT03552744

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Institute of Primary Health Care (BIHAM), University of Bern
Bern, Switzerland, 3012
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Bern
Swiss National Science Foundation
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Principal Investigator: Reto Auer, MD, MAS Institute of primary health care (BIHAM), University of Bern

European guidelines for quality assurance in colorectal cancer screening and diagnosis. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2012
publique, O.f.d.l.s., Dépistage du cancer du côlon. 2013: p. p. 455

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Responsible Party: University of Bern Identifier: NCT03552744     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: RCTSentinella2018
First Posted: June 12, 2018    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: June 19, 2019
Last Verified: June 2019

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Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: No
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Colorectal Neoplasms
Intestinal Neoplasms
Gastrointestinal Neoplasms
Digestive System Neoplasms
Neoplasms by Site
Digestive System Diseases
Gastrointestinal Diseases
Colonic Diseases
Intestinal Diseases
Rectal Diseases