Improving colorectal cancer screening rates

These ideas should also help GI practices improve their performances as well.

Primary care physicians are graded – and often paid - on their ability to get their patients to undergo preventive screenings; much easier said than done with some patients. As a retired GI practice administrator, I wish to share ideas for helping primary care practices hit their colorectal cancer screening metrics. These ideas should also help GI practices improve their performances as well.

Don’t wait until December – I knew year-end would be filled with calls from primary care practices and accountable care organizations wanting to close colorectal cancer screening gaps. There are two issues with waiting.First, many patients don’t want to their holidays tainted by a colonoscopy. Second, there just aren’t enough available colonoscopy slots to appease everyone in the last 3-4 weeks of the year.

Colorectal screenings are preventive care and thus do not hit patient deductibles; waiting does not make sense. Make screening outreach a year-round effort.

Outreach together – Outreach should be a joint effort.Ask your friendly neighborhood GI if her practice will work together in reaching out to your patients.Screening colonoscopies are the financial bread-and-butter of most GI practices, so their incentives are absolutely aligned with yours. They want to make your life as easy as possible so that you don’t rely on other options such as DNA stool tests.

Catch the ones who have slipped through the cracks - You may not get a colonoscopy report because a patient didn’t give the GI practice your name – it happens – or the practice didn’t send you the report. Share your ‘due’ list with the GI group and ask them to run your list against the patients they have screened in the past couple of years. It’s straightforward Boolean logic and usually finds a few patients who have been missed.

Go digital – Several GI practices, including my former one, have embraced digital outreach to encourage patients to get screened. It proved exceptionally effective with the “stubborn third”, those patients who rarely come in for a visit and are so good at ignoring letters from both you and the insurance company. If your friendly local GI has not adopted these direct-to-patient techniques, recommend they look into companies such as Hypertargeting.com*. Again, the GI’s incentives are aligned with yours, and their ROI on digital outreach will be rock solid.

Share the facts – The American Cancer Society reports that people born in 1990 have twice the risk of colon cancer as people born in 1950. For rectal cancer, the risk is quadrupled! And the incidence of colorectal cancer in persons under the age of 50 has been going up nearly 2% annually in the past decade. That means my children are a lot more likely to get colorectal cancer than me; the same holds true for many of you. Sedentary lifestyles and attendant obesity are the most likely culprits for this unfortunate shift. And while we may not get them off their computers, we can encourage them to get screened.

Ask your friendly local GI to provide brochures and infographics for your patients.Educate your forty-something patients. Educate your older patients, too, so that they might educate their forty-something children.

In closing – Preventive care offers an opportunity to save lives and save healthcare dollars while helping our bottom lines. That’s perverse, I know, but that’s healthcare circa 2022. We need to approach care differently. The tactics I share above have helped my medical community in all regards, and I hope they will be of benefit to you.

After a 15-month fight with Long COVID, author Lucien W. Roberts, III, MHA, FACMPE, retired in February 2022 on the advice of his primary care doctor and his wife…perhaps not in that order.In retirement, he spends a few hours a week at a freestanding infusion center he co-owns, writes the occasional article, and tries not to drive his wife too crazy.He may be reached at lroberts@theinfusionsolution.com.

* Disclosure – While Lucien is a fan of Hypertargeting, he is neither employed by Hypertargeting nor paid by them for his recommendation.