October 11, 2023

Primary care reminders key to timely follow up for cancer patients with abnormal screenings

Editor's Note

Patient outreach efforts, including a reminder in the electronic health record (EHR) following an abnormal cancer screening, helped to ensure timely follow-up, a new investigative study in JAMA Network reports. This cluster randomized clinical trial, titled "A multilevel primary care intervention to improve follow-up of overdue abnormal cancer screening test results," was published on October 10.

The study involved 11,980 patients who were receiving care at 44 primary care practices and who had overdue abnormal breast, cervical, colorectal, or lung cancer screening results. Practices and eligible patients were randomly assigned to one of four groups:

  1. usual care
  2. EHR reminders
  3. EHR reminders and outreach by patient letter and phone call
  4. EHR reminders and outreach plus a follow-up call by a patient navigator.

Patients in the last two groups were more likely than those in the first two to do recommended follow-up care related to their abnormal test results within 120 days. The proportions of patients receiving such care in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively, were 22.9%, 22.7%, 31.0%, and 31.4%.

The researchers noted that primary care systems’ whole person approach helps to drive preventative health efforts, including cancer screening.

JAMA (healthcare publication) Network logo


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