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Closing Preventive Care Gaps in Underserved Areas

  • Need: Address the need to increase cancer screening rates as well as other preventive care measures in Appalachian Kentucky, a region with high cancer incidence and mortality rates, and noted health disparities.
  • Intervention: Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and an academic center partnered to adapt and implement an office-based intervention, building on existing primary care resources to decrease gaps in preventive care measures, including cancer screenings.
  • Results: After intervention implementation, White House Clinics saw a marked increase in various preventive care measures, including screenings for cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C (HVC).


Promising (About evidence-level criteria)


Cancer continues to be the second-leading cause of death in the United States. Early detection through evidence-based cancer screening remains an important mitigation step. In an effort to decrease the burden of cancer in Appalachian Kentucky, White House Clinics partnered with the University of Kentucky College of Public Health to create the Appalachian Center for Cancer Education, Screening, and Support (ACCESS). ACCESS serves as a collaborating center of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN).

Appalachian Center for Cancer Education, Screening, and Support logo

This academic-community partnership adapted and implemented an office-based intervention, known as the proactive office encounter (POE), originally developed by the integrated healthcare system, Kaiser Permanente. Integrated into the POE intervention are motivational interviewing techniques, workflow modifications, electronic health record (EHR) adaptations, and daily team huddles.

The researchers noted, "This model expands the reach of an acute or maintenance visit to include preventive care for which a patient with limited access might never seek on their own."

The intervention uses an EHR review paired with changed workflows to identify care gaps in advance of the patient's visit. Clinic team members prepare for patient-centered discussions around preventive care gaps, and also complete pre-visit preparations for those preventive measures, such as preparing the room for a Pap test, having a Fecal Immunochemical Test kit ready for patients to take home, and completing standing orders for immunizations.

Both the purpose of the scheduled visit and the preventive care tasks were completed with no significant impact on visit cycle time.

In 2015, nearly 10,400 patients (34%) were evaluated using the POE intervention at White House Clinics. In 2016 and 2017 respectively, roughly 15,420 patients (52%) and patients (57%) were evaluated using the POE intervention at White House Clinics. As of 2018, 58% of 17,787 patients were evaluated.

This project was supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CPCRN funding cycle concludes September 2019.

Services offered

Additional services included in the scheduled visit:

  • For those patients agreeing to preventive services completed outside of the clinics, an in-house referral team initiates the appointment scheduling process and tracks completion of the service and secures test results; for example, mammography, colonoscopy with lung cancer screening recently added.
  • Patient-centered education regarding risks/benefits of preventive services.


In addition to a 25% increase in breast cancer screening, colorectal cancer screenings increased by 36%. Screening rates for HCV, a precursor to liver cancer, and HIV increased by eight-fold and five-fold respectively. Influenza, pneumonia and varicella-zoster (shingles) vaccination rates also increased collectively by 9%. Compared to pre-implementation levels, breast cancer screening rates increased by 40% in both 2016 and 2017; colorectal cancer screening rates increased as well (46%) in 2016 and 2017. Adult immunizations (i.e., pneumococcal, zoster, and flu) also maintained annual increases in compliance rates. Several other preventive care measures continued to have compliance rates increase: cervical cancer screening (20%), flu vaccination (2%), HIV screening (23%) and HCV screening (15%.) Breast cancer screening rates remained stable at 705.

Workflow was maximized by increasing the number of standing orders, which also allowed clinic staff to utilize their full scope of practice. An increased strategic role in patient care raised staff's job satisfaction.

A continual focus on quality improvement (QI) allowed for annual guideline updates and inclusion of additional preventive care guidelines, such as those for osteoporosis and lung cancer screening. Implementation of POE was also studied against theoretical models for change management. For example, a QI tool known as a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) was conducted with White House Clinics leadership, providers, and staff. The purpose of the FMEA was to identify and correct potential challenges to the implementation of the POE model. The FMEA resulted in a corrections list from identified failure-modes and commitment to developing additional written policies and procedures to guide the POE intervention workflow. The impact of Kotter's change management theory is being studies in relationship to the implementation and and sustainability of POE within WHCs.

For more detailed program results see:

  • Vanderpool RC, Moore SC, Stradtman LR, Carman AL, Kurgat HL, Fain P. Adaptation of an Evidence-Based Intervention to Improve Preventive Care Practices in a Federally Qualified Health Center in Appalachian Kentucky. Journal of Health Care for the Poor Underserved. 2016;27(4A):46-52. Article Abstract
  • Carman, A. (2016, August). A Change Management Approach to Closing Care Gaps. Presentation at the meeting of the Kentucky Rural Health Association, Bowling Green, KY.
  • Stradtman LR, Vanderpool RC, Carman AL, Moore SC, Kurgat HL, Fain P. Addressing Cancer Disparities in Appalachian Kentucky through Proactive Office Encounters in Community Health Centers. American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO. October 31, 2016.
  • Carman AL, Vanderpool RC, Stradtman LR, Moore SC. Standardizing a Federally Qualified Health Center's Preventive Care Processes: A Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. Health Care Management Review. 2018. [In press] Article Abstract
  • Carman AL, Vanderpool RC, Stradtman LR, Edmiston, EA. A Change Management Approach to Closing Care Gaps in a Federally Qualified Health Center: A Rural Kentucky Case Study. Prev Chronic Dis [in press].


  • Assessing preventive care coverage and reimbursement by major payors
  • Extracting needed data from EHR system
  • Patient reluctance to pay for additional preventive screenings (based on perceived and real costs and/or perceived risk)
  • High volume of care gaps at the launch of the project


According to the researchers, the model fits well for clinics in underserved, rural areas. "The foundational goal of FQHCs addressing poor health outcomes among those with limited access to care, lack of transportation, and geographic isolation prevalent in rural America makes the POE model particularly appealing."

Prior to implementation, various internal assessments should be made, including a review of the EHR system's ability to provide accurate data for evaluation efforts. Staffing needs assessments should also be conducted, as additional non-clinical staff, known as Care Coordinators, were needed at White House Clinics in order to conduct proactive patient chart reviews. Furthermore, there should be a commitment to changing workflows and to the overall workplace culture.The academic team is now partnering with two other health care groups – a large health care system in eastern Kentucky and a FQHC in central Kentucky – to implement POE in their respective clinical settings.

Staff training on the POE intervention, including motivational interviewing and leading effective team huddles, should be conducted. Due to the intervention's success, an implementation toolkit is being developed. For those desiring more information about the POE intervention, the toolkit will be publicly available upon completion.

Project Community Cancer Resources Guide:

Contact Information

Robin Vanderpool, DrPH, CHES, Associate Professor
University of Kentucky College of Public Health

Federally Qualified Health Centers
Health screening

States served

Date added
March 29, 2017

Date updated or reviewed
May 24, 2019

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.