Aims for quality improvement in cancer screening participation

Having measurable goals and tracking progress towards your goals is the foundation of quality improvement.


Persistently reminding eligible patients to screen is effective at improving screening rates.2,3,4,5

To deliver effective reminders, most practices need to rectify gaps in:

  • coding of screening results
  • recall and reminder systems
  • the ways in which they identify and engage under-screened patients.

As such, the aims of the cancer screening quality improvement toolkit are both process- and outcome-based.

Process aims

  • Practice data accurately shows screening participation rates.
  • Practices have a documented system for reminding all eligible patients about screening (including patients who have never screened).
  • Practices have identified, documented and implemented approaches to improve patient-centred care.

Note: This module will support you to assess your practice’s cancer screening landscape, and to identify additional process aims specific to your practice.

Outcome aims

Better systems, improved reminder systems and enhanced patient-centred care will support achievement of these goals.

Every practice is unique. For some practices, these goals can be achieved relatively quickly, while for other practices, they are goals that should be worked towards over several years:

  • 60% of people aged 50–74 have participated in bowel screening in the previous two years.
  • 70% of women aged 50–74 years have a recorded result for a mammogram conducted in the previous two years.
  • 65% of women aged 25–74 years have a recorded result for a Cervical Screening Test conducted in the recommended timeframe.

Note: These aims have been adapted from the North Coast Primary Health Network’s Cancer Screening Measuring for Improvement guides.

Establishing aims that are right for your practice

Establishing aims that are right for your practice

For many practices, the overall outcome aims for this toolkit are ambitious. If so, they can be viewed as ‘stretch aims’ that will be achieved over a long period by embedding high quality cancer screening processes into your practice’s core business.

To establish the most appropriate aims for your practice:

  • assess your baseline screening rates (see Module 2 for further information)
  • think about your patient population (e.g. do you have large cohorts of patients who are more likely to be under-screened? (see Module 3 for more information on under-screened groups)
  • use this information to decide on appropriate medium- and long-term targets for your practice.

For example, you may aim to increase participation in breast, bowel and cervical screening by 5% within 12 months. If you hit this target, you can then set yourself a new aim.

Remember, it’s important to monitor and celebrate progress!