Peoria and Decatur, Illinois, are poised to redefine national quality benchmarks for screening and surveillance colonoscopy. This is the only region in the country that measures and reports colonoscopy quality scores by doctors.

Colonoscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to examine the lining of the large bowel for precancerous polyps. If polyps are found, they are removed. Some polyps have the potential to turn into cancer. Removing these pre-cancerous polyps cuts the risk of dying from colorectal cancer in half. Some polyps are benign and will never cause any harm. These do not require any further evaluation.

Patients in our region can look online at QualityQuest.org to see colonoscopy quality scores for local doctors. The scores are based on how often the ten steps doctors agree to be important are all done correctly. One step is making certain the patient truly needs the test he or she is getting. When the project began, some patients were getting tests too often. Another step is providing all the information the pathologist needs about any polyps that are removed to make a correct interpretation. Both of these steps have improved substantially since the start of the project.

Seven endoscopy centers and 34 physicians are participating in Quality Quest’s colonoscopy quality reporting, and the outcomes are impressive! The Colonoscopy Quality Index (all steps done correctly), which hovered near 50 percent for two years before results were reported publicly, has been rising steadily. A rate of 87 percent means that 87 of every 100 colonoscopies performed (2,000 every quarter) meet all essential quality standards. Doctors are beginning to reach rates of 100 percent for an entire quarter.

Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees died earlier this year of colon cancer. Gibb’s death may not have been preventable, but many colorectal deaths can be prevented. Colorectal cancer can be prevented through screening. There are different means of screening—annual stool tests for blood, flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, or colonoscopy every 10 years—and they all work. Everyone ages 50 to 74 would benefit, but according to the most recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (2010), one in three have not been screened.

According to 2007 Medicare data, the Peoria region had one of the highest colorectal cancer surgery rates in the country. In the future, central Illinois may have one of the lowest rates in the country, thanks to excellent local doctors and the success of the Quality Quest Colonoscopy Quality initiative. iBi