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App allows patients to order tests, doubles colon cancer screening rates

An iPad app that educates patients about different options for colon cancer screening and allows them to order their preferred test may increase screening rates.

The findings of a randomized controlled trial are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Screening for colon cancer has been proven to reduce mortality, yet more than one third of eligible Americans remain unscreened.

Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine sought to determine if a digital health intervention delivered via iPad app could increase screening rates.

Researchers enrolled 450 patients in primary care who were due for colon cancer screening and agreed to participate in the study.

The participants were randomly assigned to colon cancer education through the iPad app or usual care.

Patients using the iPad app were educated about different types of screening tests and could order the test they wanted.

Patients in both groups took a brief survey about colon cancer screening. Patients who received education and reminders through the app were twice as likely to undergo screening compared to patients in the usual care group (30 percent versus 15 percent, respectively).

The authors of an accompanying editorial from the Center for Health Care Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania caution that the study was limited to primary care patients who had already agreed to participate in the research, which means that the results may not translate to a broader population.

They suggest that improvements in colon cancer screening will more likely arrive incrementally from compound interventions that involve technology, education, and behaviour.

Source: American College of Physicians



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