Guidelines recommend lung cancer screening and it is currently being adopted nationwide. The American College of Chest Physicians advises inclusion of specific programmatic components to ensure high-quality screening. However, little is known about how lung cancer screening has been implemented in practice. We sought to evaluate the experience of early-adopting programs, characterize barriers faced, and identify strategies to achieve successful implementation.
We performed qualitative evaluations of lung cancer screening implementation at three Veterans Health Administration facilities, conducting semi-structured interviews with key staff (n=29). Guided by the Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services framework, we analyzed transcripts using principals of grounded theory.
Programs successfully incorporated most recommended elements of lung cancer screening, although varying in approaches to patient selection, tobacco treatment, and quality audits. Barriers to implementation included managing workload to ensure appropriate evaluation of screen-detected pulmonary nodules and difficulty obtaining primary care buy-in. To manage workload, programs employed nurse coordinators to actively maintain screening registries, held multidisciplinary conferences that generated explicit management recommendations, and rolled out implementation in a staged fashion. Successful strategies to engage primary care included educational sessions, audit and feedback of local outcomes, and assisting with and assigning clear responsibility for nodule evaluation. Capitalizing on pre-existing relationships and including a designated program champion helped facilitate intra-disciplinary communication.
Lung cancer screening implementation is a complex undertaking requiring coordination at many levels. The insight gained from evaluation of these early-adopting programs may inform subsequent design and implementation of lung cancer screening programs.