Purpose: A randomized trial was conducted to evaluate the impact of a telephone counseling intervention to improve patient adherence to colposcopic examination for suspected cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).
Methods: Subjects were lower-income, minority women who missed a scheduled initial appointment for colposcopy at an urban medical clinic. Patients were randomly assigned to either a control condition (n = 42) or a telephone counseling condition (n = 48). The 15-minute, structured telephone counseling intervention protocol addressed educational, psychosocial, and practical barriers to colposcopy adherence.
Results: The most common patient-reported barriers to colposcopy adherence included a lack of understanding of the purpose of colposcopy (50%), worry about or fear of cancer (25%), and forgetting (23%). Telephone counseling was found to be highly effective in addressing these barriers and improving adherence to diagnostic follow-up and treatment. Of patients in the control condition, 43% complied with a rescheduled colposcopy appointment, compared with 67% in the telephone counseling condition. Logistic regression analysis indicated that the effect of telephone counseling was independent of sociodemographic confounder variables (odds ratio = 2.6; P less than .003). Additionally, 74% of patients who received the initial telephone counseling adhered to recommended treatment, compared with 53% of patients in the control condition.
Conclusion: Brief, structured telephone contact may be a cost-effective mechanism for improving adherence to diagnostic follow-up and treatment for a variety of cancer screening tests.