This work provides justification for the creation of reminder systems to improve colorectal cancer screening rates.
“Our automated, patient-dependent colonoscopy follow-up reminder system significantly improved adherence with recommended surveillance colonoscopy and patient satisfaction,” said Daniel A. Leffler, MD, MS, of Harvard Medical School. “Although this study focused only on colonoscopy, it is expected that this approach would be widely applicable across different procedures and medical specialties.” Watch Dr. Leffler further discuss his research findings.
In this study, patients were assigned to groups that received the standard of care or a newly developed follow-up system that included a letter to the primary care provider, two letters to the patient and a telephone call to patients who had not yet scheduled an examination by the procedure due date. Doctors created and tested an electronic medical record-based system that reminds patients and providers when follow-up examinations — in this case, colonoscopies — are due and provides documentation in the medical record of this communication.
The low-cost intervention almost doubled the rate of recommended exams during the time period of the study. Also, the intervention was well received by patients and even more effective in minority populations who typically receive lower quality care. This could lead to improvements in disparities in care for those needing repeat colonoscopies.
Although evidence-based guidelines for colon cancer screening and surveillance exist, there are significant issues with patient adherence to recommendations regarding colonoscopy. In fact, colonoscopy presents particular difficulty for both patients and providers because of variability in the recommended follow-up interval and long length of time between examinations. After an initial colonoscopy is performed, appropriate follow-up testing often is neglected with potentially serious consequences. Few institutions or practices, however, have implemented systems to monitor and improve compliance with suggested follow-up tests.
“Regardless of whether information is transmitted on paper, in e-mails, texts or other media, we anticipate that the need for integrated systems to assist in prompting patients to obtain recommended care will increase,” added Dr. Leffler. “As electronic medical record systems are adopted and refined, protocols for notifying and documenting communication regarding recommended follow-up screening and diagnostic procedures should be strongly considered.”
Although there are some upfront costs associated with the adoption of a follow-up system, once running, well-designed systems can function with little additional burden to the physician or administrative staff. This finding suggests that use of similar solutions can reduce the disparities seen in medical care across the U.S. medical system.
About the AGA Institute
The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to include 17,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. www.gastro.org.
Gastroenterology, the official journal of the AGA Institute, is the most prominent scientific journal in the specialty and is in the top 1 percent of indexed medical journals internationally. The journal publishes clinical and basic science studies of all aspects of the digestive system, including the liver and pancreas, as well as nutrition. The journal is abstracted and indexed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences, Chemical Abstracts, Current Contents, Excerpta Medica, Index Medicus, Nutrition Abstracts and Science Citation Index. For more information, visit www.gastrojournal.org.
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