Journal Articles

Publication Date



JAMA Network Open


IMPORTANCE: Lack of timely follow-up of cancer-related abnormal test results can lead to delayed or missed diagnoses, adverse cancer outcomes, and substantial cost burden for patients. Care delivery models, such as the Veterans Affairs' (VA) Patient-Aligned Care Team (PACT), which aim to improve patient-centered care coordination, could potentially also improve timely follow-up of abnormal test results. PACT was implemented nationally in the VA between 2010 and 2012.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the long-term association between PACT implementation and timely follow-up of abnormal test results related to the diagnosis of 5 different cancers.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This multiyear retrospective cohort study used 14 years of VA data (2006-2019), which were analyzed using panel data-based random-effects linear regressions. The setting included all VA clinics and facilities. The participants were adult patients who underwent diagnostic testing related to 5 different cancers and had abnormal test results. Data extraction and statistical analyses were performed from September 2021 to December 2023.

EXPOSURE: Calendar years denoting preperiods and postperiods of PACT implementation, and the PACT Implementation Progress Index Score denoting the extent of implementation in each VA clinic and facility.

MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE: Percentage of potentially missed timely follow-ups of abnormal test results.

RESULTS: This study analyzed 6 data sets representing 5 different types of cancers. During the initial years of PACT implementation (2010 to 2013), percentage of potentially missed timely follow-ups decreased between 3 to 7 percentage points for urinalysis suggestive of bladder cancer, 12 to 14 percentage points for mammograms suggestive of breast cancer, 19 to 22 percentage points for fecal tests suggestive of colorectal cancer, and 6 to 13 percentage points for iron deficiency anemia laboratory tests suggestive of colorectal cancer, with no statistically significant changes for α-fetoprotien tests and lung cancer imaging. However, these beneficial reductions were not sustained over time. Better PACT implementation scores were associated with a decrease in potentially missed timely follow-up percentages for urinalysis (0.3-percentage point reduction [95% CI, -0.6 to -0.1] with 1-point increase in the score), and laboratory tests suggestive of iron deficiency anemia (0.5-percentage point reduction [95% CI,-0.8 to -0.2] with 1-point increase in the score).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This cohort study found that implementation of PACT in the VA was associated with a potential short-term improvement in the quality of follow-up for certain test results. Additional multifaceted sustained interventions to reduce missed test results are required to prevent care delays.


Adult, Humans, Female, Anemia, Iron-Deficiency, Cohort Studies, Follow-Up Studies, Retrospective Studies, Veterans Health, Breast Neoplasms, Patient-Centered Care, Colorectal Neoplasms



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