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Patients are untapped resource for improving care, study finds
Date:2/23/2009

BOSTON, Mass. (Feb. 23, 2009)As the United States transitions to a new administration, and as the health care crisis mounts, the debate about how to buttress primary care delivery with information technology is getting louder. While much of the attentionand controversy is focused on how to better equip physicians, little focus appears to be aimed at how to better equip patients to improve their health care.

A 15-month study looking at 21,860 patients and 110 primary care physicians from 11 Harvard Vanguard health centers found that patients who received mailed reminders that they were due for colorectal cancer screenings were more likely to schedule screenings than those who didn't. Forty-four percent of patients who received a reminder in the mail got screened, versus 38 percent who did nota 16 percent relative increase in screening rate. In an interesting twist to the findings, electronic reminders to physicians during office visits indicating that these same patients were due for screenings yielded no significant increase.

"We had a large group of people who needed to be screened for a very important condition. If we provided them with basic information about colon cancer and their need for screening, this approach was more effective than simply leaving it all up to the doctor," says Harvard Medical School professor of medicine and health care policy John Ayanian.

These findings are published in the February 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

For this study, Ayanian, who is also a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Thomas Sequist, assistant professor of medicine and of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, looked at a group of patients aged 50 to 80. Using data generated by an electronic health record, they were able to isolate a large group who were overdue for colorectal cancer screening.

One group of pat
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Contact: David Cameron
public_affairs@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0442
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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