Electronic messages ultimately not effective in improving colorectal screening rates

May 26, 2011

Researchers involved with a study published in a recent Archives of Internal Medicine hypothesized that you could improve colorectal screening rates among your patients by sending reminder messages and personalized risk assessments via their personal health records (PHRs). The results didn?t turn out quite the way they had thought.

 

Researchers involved with a study published in a recent Archives of Internal Medicine hypothesized that you could improve colorectal screening rates among your patients by sending reminder messages and personalized risk assessments via their personal health records (PHRs). The results didn’t turn out quite the way they had thought.

Thomas D. Sequist, MD, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial with 1,103 patients aged 50 to 75 years. Study participants had active PHRs and were overdue for colorectal cancer screenings. Of the total, 552 participants were randomly assigned to receive a single electronic message mentioning that they were overdue for the screening. The message contained a link to a Web-based tool they could use to assess their personal risk of colorectal cancer. Outcomes measures were screening rates at 1 and 4 months.

At 1 month, screening rates were 8.3% among patients who received the electronic messages and 0.2% for those who did not. At 4 months, however, the difference in screening rates between the two groups (15.8% versus 13.1%, respectively) no longer was significant.

Fifty-four percent of those receiving the messages viewed them, and 9% used the Web-based risk assessment tool, according to investigators. Patients using the assessment tool were more likely to request screenings and to be screened than those not using it.

“Further research is needed to understand the most effective ways for patients to use interactive health information technology to improve their care and to reduce the morbidity and mortality of colorectal cancer,” the authors write.