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Reminders May Improve Rates of Colorectal Cancer Screening

Letters to patients and electronic reminders to physicians seen as useful tools

TUESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Mailed reminders to patients and electronic reminders to physicians may improve rates of colorectal cancer screening and detection of adenomas, according to study findings published in the Feb. 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Thomas D. Sequist, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues randomly assigned 21,860 patients aged 50 to 80 who were overdue for colorectal cancer screening to receive either a mailed letter with an educational pamphlet, fecal occult blood test kit, and instructions for scheduling a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, or no letter. The researchers also randomly assigned 110 primary care physicians to receive either electronic reminders during office visits with patients overdue for screening or no reminders.

Among the patients, the researchers found that screening rates were higher for the mailing group than controls (44 percent versus 38.1 percent), and that increasing patient age was associated with an increasing screening rate. Among physicians, the investigators found that electronic reminders were associated with slightly higher overall patient screening rates (41.9 percent versus 40.2 percent) but with significantly higher rates among patients with three or more doctor visits (59.5 percent versus 52.7 percent). They also found that adenoma detection increased with patient mailings and physician reminders (5.7 percent versus 5.2 percent, and 6 percent versus 4.9 percent, respectively).

"These complementary approaches have the potential to promote the overarching goal of widespread screening to reduce the incidence, morbidity and mortality of colorectal cancer," the authors conclude.

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