Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Patients Are Untapped Resource For Improving Care, Study Finds

Date:
February 27, 2009
Source:
Harvard Medical School
Summary:
A study looking at over 21,000 patients from 11 health centers finds that patients who receive mailed reminders for scheduling colorectal cancer screenings are more likely to comply than those who don't. Forty-four percent of patients who received a reminder in the mail were screened, versus 38 percent who did not -- an effect that increased with age. However, electronic reminders targeting physicians yielded no significant increase.

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 attention—and 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 not—a 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 patients was randomly chosen to receive in the mail a personalized letter indicating their history of colon cancer screening exams, education literature on colon cancer, plus a fecal occult blood test kit and instructions for scheduling either a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. The remaining patients received their usual care without this extra information. Not only did 44 percent of the first group get screened, but the effect increased with age; the older, the more compliant. In fact, among patients between 70 and 80 years old, screening rates increased from 37 percent to 47 percent among those who received mailed reminders to be screened—a 27 percent relative increase.

Some physicians were also chosen at random to receive electronic reminders during office visits indicating that their patients were overdue for screening. The fact that up to one third of the patients did not visit their physician during this 15-month period may very well have contributed to the overall negligible results (42 percent versus 40 percent). Still, the effectiveness of such reminders increased with patients who visited their doctor three or more times during the study period. Among these patients with frequent visits, nearly 60 percent of those whose physicians received reminders were screened, compared with 52 percent of patients whose doctors did not receive reminders.

"Getting something in the mail might seem low tech, but it was only possible because in these health centers electronic medical records already existed," says Sequist. "People speak of primary care being in crisis and that there's too much for physicians to get done in a regular workday. But here we see that patients can take a more active role in their health care. We often don't give enough credit to patients for their ability to own their health care. But here's some evidence that patients can better manage their health care if we arm them with the right information."

The authors comment at the end of the paper, "Our findings underscore that informed patients can play an active role in completing effective preventive services."

This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard Medical School. The original article was written by David Cameron. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas D. Sequist; Alan M. Zaslavsky; Richard Marshall; Robert H. Fletcher; John Z. Ayanian. Patient and Physician Reminders to Promote Colorectal Cancer Screening: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009; 169 (4): 364 DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2008.564

Cite This Page:

Harvard Medical School. "Patients Are Untapped Resource For Improving Care, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221247.htm>.
Harvard Medical School. (2009, February 27). Patients Are Untapped Resource For Improving Care, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221247.htm
Harvard Medical School. "Patients Are Untapped Resource For Improving Care, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221247.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) A look inside Monrovia's Island Hospital, a key treatment centre in the fight against Ebola in Liberia's capital city. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) The Ebola outbreak is putting stress on first responders in Liberia. Ambulance drivers say they are struggling with chronic shortages of safety equipment and patients who don't want to go to the hospital. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Reassure Public Ebola Patient Won't Cause Outbreak

Doctors Reassure Public Ebola Patient Won't Cause Outbreak

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) After the announcement that the first U.S. patient had been diagnosed with Ebola, doctors were quick to say a U.S. outbreak is highly unlikely. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
TX Hospital Confirms Patient Admitted With Ebola

TX Hospital Confirms Patient Admitted With Ebola

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Medical officials from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital confirm they are treating a patient with the Ebola virus, the first case found in the US. (Sept. 30 Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins