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Michelle Beaver

EndoNurse editor Michelle Beaver is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She's won several state and national journalism awards, including a national first-place for in-depth reporting from the Scripps Howard Foundation. She has written for two wire services, several newspapers and magazines.

Can Your Team Increase Colonoscopy Screening Rates?

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Your team members can do everything right. You can work well together, keep up to date on education and procedures and do those procedures perfectly. But what good is any of that to a person who never makes it in for a screening?

Patients are the most important part of a colonoscopy, but many would-be patients never have the procedure. Instead, they avoid it, sometimes out of fear, ignorance, or being too busy. No matter the excuse, there are ways to circumnavigate and get the person in for their screening.

But how?

According to a new study, a phone call or mailing to a potential patient significantly increases the chances that the person will get screened. This study appeared in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention and was done by researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University.

The researchers performed a randomized, controlled trial of 945 people ages 50-79.

A third of the patients received a phone call that encouraged them to perform their preferred screening test (colonoscopy or an at-home blood stool test), and they also received this information in a piece of mail. Another third of the participants were sent information on the two screening choices via mail only (no phone call). The last third received nothing.

"Patients who received a phone call and/or mailing were almost three times as likely to undergo screening six months later compared to those who had no intervention," the researchers wrote. "However, there was no significant difference between the phone and mailed interventions versus mailings-only on screening rates."

The study was conducted between 2007 and 2011, at 10 primary-care practices in Delaware.  

According to the study, 38 percent of the patients who received the phone calls completed screening tests and 33 percent of the patients who received mailings completed screening tests. Only 12 percent of patients in the control group completed screening tests.

“The study showed that both strategies were superior to usual care, and that there is not a one-size fits all approach to screening," the researchers stated. “The next step is to determine if an intervention strategy that maximizes screening test access, incorporates patient preference, and engages providers can achieve higher screening rates compared to just mailings."

The moral of the story: calling and mailing is good, but mail alone is almost as good, so it might not be worth the effort to do both. Whether your team sends mail AND makes calls or just sends mail, you're doing much better than doing nothing at all. So, send that mail! According to the aforementioned study, those missives get patients in the door.

To read more about the study, read the EndoNurse story, "Calls and Mail Increase Colon-Cancer Screening Rates."

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