PURPOSE: Effective methods that encourage rural primary-care phycians to adopt state-of-the-art cancer-management practices are needed. The purpose of this study was to evaluate educational and systems strategies to improve rural primary-care physicians' cancer practice behaviors. DESCRIPTION OF STUDY: The Lake Superior Rural Cancer Care Project was a group-randomized controlled trial conducted with 18 rural communities in the North Central United States over 4 years. Although the unit of analysis was the community, the subjects were 104 primary-care physicians and 2089 rural patients with cancer. The intervention was educational and comprised systems strategies that targeted rural primary-care physicians and their healthcare delivery systems. The outcome measures reported here were physician practice behaviors regarding cancer diagnosis, staging, treatment, clinical trial participation, and post-treatment surveillance. RESULTS: The intervention significantly improved 5 of the 37 can-cer practice end points. The overall result of the study did not support the majority of the study hypotheses. Because 16 practice end points were found to be at acceptable performance levels, the possibility of a measurable intervention effect was limited. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Earlier, the authors reported the result of the intervention on providers cancer management knowledge, which showed significant improvement. The present study findings demonstrated that improving provider knowledge does not necessarily improve practice performance. Changing practice behaviors requires much more effort. Furthermore, interventions found to be effective in other diseases, types of providers, or setting may not work on rural providers for cancer management.
- Physician practice performance
- Randomized controlled trial
- Rural cancer care