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Reminders Help Patients Get Better Care
Date:2/23/2009

Simple interventions boosted colon cancer screening rates, researchers say

MONDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- A little information and guidance can prompt patients to play a much greater role in improving their own health care, a new study focused on colon cancer screening suggests.

The 15-month Harvard study included 21,860 patients, ages 50 to 80, who were overdue for colorectal cancer screenings.

One group of patients received the usual care. A second group received a mailed, personalized letter outlining their history of colon cancer screening exams, information about colon cancer, a fecal occult blood test kit, and instructions for scheduling either a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.

The study found that 44 percent of patients in the second group got screened for colorectal cancer, compared with 38 percent of those in the first group. The older they were, the more likely patients in the second group were to get screened -- among those ages 70 to 80, screening rates increased from 37 percent to 47 percent.

The study also included 110 primary care doctors. Some were selected to receive electronic reminders that their patients were overdue for colorectal cancer screening. Overall, 42 percent of patients whose doctors received the electronic reminders got screened, compared to 40 percent of patients whose doctors didn't get reminders.

This negligible difference may be due to the fact that up to one third of patients didn't visit their primary care doctor during the study, said the researchers.

Among patients who saw their doctor frequently, screening rates were 60 percent for those whose doctors received reminders and 52 percent for those whose doctors didn't get reminders.

The study appears in the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

"We had a large group of people who needed to be screened for a very important condition. If we provi
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