Alternative access to bowel screening kits guide

From 31 October 2022, providers can bulk order and issue kits to eligible patients through the National Cancer Screening Register. Read this short guide on the alternative access to kits model before you order kits for the first time to help you implement and promote screening in your practice.

Many patients are more likely to complete the test after discussing the process with a trusted healthcare provider. You play an important role in helping your patients make informed decisions about bowel cancer screening.

Download the alternative access to kits guide or follow the steps

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) should email the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) for culturally appropriate training.

Bowel cancer and the importance of screening

Bowel cancer can develop without any signs. It usually starts as small growths called polyps, which can grow and become cancer.

Regular screening saves lives. If found early, over 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated.

Read our clinical guidelines and resources.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program aims to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by detecting early signs of the disease. Eligible Australians aged 50 to 74 are invited every 2 years to complete a free, simple test at home.

Those not eligible can talk with their GP about getting a non-program, Medicare Benefits Schedule funded test. Test kits can also be purchased online or from a chemist.

The program now operates 2 models to help increase screening participation:

  1. mail-out model – kits are mailed directly to eligible people by the National Cancer Screening Register
  2. alternative access to kits model – healthcare providers give kits directly to eligible people, explain why the test is important and demonstrate how to do it.

A hot zone policy exists for hotter areas of Australia, where participants are sent the kit in the cooler months of the year. For participants in hot zones, practitioners can still give them a kit if they see a clinical benefit.

The National Cancer Screening Register

The program is supported by the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) and its Healthcare Provider Portal (HCP) Portal, which invites, reminds and follows up participants to screen. It also generates comprehensive data to inform public health policy and improve program quality and service delivery.

Learn more about the National Cancer Screening Register.

Getting started in your practice

You must register for access to the National Cancer Screening Register Healthcare Provider (HCP) Portal before you can:

  • bulk order kits
  • issue kits
  • access and submit screening data.

Registering for HCP Portal access

To register for the portal you need a Provider Digital Access (PRODA) account.

Once you have registered for a PRODA account, you can login to the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) HCP Portal.

See the NCSR quick start guide and the walk-through video for detailed instructions.

For help with registering, call the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701, or fill out a form to request a call back at a time convenient for you.

Integrating your clinical software with the NCSR

You can integrate your clinical software with the NCSR and issue screening kits to patients using a familiar platform.

You can view your patients’ screening status, including if they are overdue, and update their participant record.

Software compatible for integration include MedicalDirector, Communicare or Best Practice.

Bowel screening kits cannot be ordered via clinical software. Place bulk orders for bowel screening kits through the HCP Portal.

Learn more about integrating your clinical software.

For help with integration, call the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701, or fill out a form to request a call back at a time convenient for you.

Ordering kits

To bulk order kits for your practice you need to:

  • log into the HCP portal
  • click the ‘iFOBT Bulk Orders’ button
  • click the start your order button.

The ordering process should take no more than 2 minutes to complete.

You can order kits in batches of 10. We recommend ordering no more than 30 in one go.

You can order more kits if you have a large eligible-patient base. Kits expire after 7 months, so please carefully calculate how many your practice will need.

To order more than 100 kits, phone the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701. You will be asked to give a brief reason for the intended usage. This will help us understand how you plan to use large orders of kits.

Watch a short video showing this process in the HCP Portal, or read the instructions.

Issuing kits and recording it in the NCSR

You've spoken with your patient about the screening test and they have decided to take the kit home.

Next you need to log into the HCP Portal (or if accessing through your clinical software, open the NCSR Hub when in a patient record) and:

  1. check the patient’s details are correct and make any needed changes.
  2. print a copy of the participant details form for the patient to include with their samples in the reply-paid envelope (which is provided in the kit).

These steps ensure the samples can be tested and the results sent to the correct address.

This process should take less than 2 minutes to complete.

Watch a short video showing this process in the HCP Portal, or read the instructions.

Encouraging patients to screen for bowel cancer

What you say to patients can encourage them towards doing the bowel screening test.

Ask your patient if they have any concerns about doing the test at home? 

Show them an open test kit and explain how to use it, and show them the walk-through video.

We have translated the test kit instructions into 22 languages.

You can order demonstration kits from us.

Conversation starters

  • The bowel screening test is free. 
  • You may feel fit and healthy and have no symptoms, but you can still be at risk of bowel cancer. 
  • The test simple to do at home and could save your life. 
  • If found early, bowel cancer can be successfully treated in more than 90% of cases. 
  • Over the age of 50, the risk of getting bowel cancer increases. 
  • Do it to live a long healthy life and stay healthy for family and friends. 
  • Put the test near the toilet, where you will remember to do it. 
  • The test is clean – this kit includes toilet liners and only the collection tube tip ever touches the poo.
  • If you don't want to take one today, we could have the Register mail it to your home address.

Notifications, results and patient follow-up

Once your patient has been issued a kit or has received a positive screening result, the register will automatically set up follow-up alerts.

In the participant's profile, you can see their screening status, next action, alerts, results, and correspondence that has been sent to them.

To support with patient follow-up, go to the My Correspondence tab in the portal or NCSR Hub in your clinical software.

If you see notifications showing a positive result has not been followed up, you should contact the patient. If a result has not been received or is inconclusive you should encourage your patient to return the completed test kit. This section also displays notifications for when the patient will be issued a kit for their next screening round.

Read the instructions on register notifications and patient follow up.

Receiving test results

It can take up to 4 weeks for both the patient and health centre to receive test results. If you have not received results for a patient, visit the National Cancer Screening Register or call 1800 627 701.

Explaining test results

You should explain the test results to your patient and advise on next steps.

Test result

Interpretation

Action

Negative

No blood was detected in the samples.

The patient and their nominated healthcare provider will be mailed a copy of the results. Reassure the patient of what the result means and advise they should screen again in 2 years.

Positive

Blood has been detected in one or both samples. This does not mean the patient has bowel cancer, but further investigation is needed to find out why the blood is there.

The patient and their nominated healthcare provider will be mailed a copy of the results. An alert will appear in the HCP Portal against the patient's record. An 8-week reminder letter will be sent to the patient and the nominated healthcare provider if a follow-up appointment has not occurred. A doctor will likely refer the patient for further diagnostic testing such as a colonoscopy.

Inconclusive

The patient has provided only one sample and it produced a negative result.

The patient and their nominated healthcare provider will be mailed a copy of the result. An alert will appear in the HCP Portal against the patient's record. Contact the patient to encourage them to do the test again. Let them know the register will automatically issue them with a replacement kit to the address held in the register. This could be the local healthcare centre.

No result

The sample could not be tested. This can occur when the:

  • sample had too much or not enough poo provided
  • collection tube was damaged
  • kit is completed or tested by the laboratory after the expiry date
  • samples were not tested within 14 days of the first collection.

Resources and contacts

Resources are available to support you and your practice’s staff communicate with patients at all stages of the bowel screening process. You can also find resources to help navigate the NCSR to bulk order kits, and how to register that a kit has been issued to a patient.

Resources are available to order for your practice, free of charge including:

NCSR guides

The NCSR has resources for the alternative access model to show you how to bulk order, and record a kit has been issued to a patient.

You can also browse the NCSR YouTube playlist for all ‘how to’ videos on using the register.

Contacts

Alternative access to bowel screening kits

Contact us for more information about alternative access to bowel screening kits.
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