Colonoscopy completion in a large safety net health care system

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Apr;6(4):438-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2007.12.003. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


Background & aims: Anecdotally, patients in safety net health care systems have difficulty completing screening and diagnostic colonoscopies, but this is poorly characterized. It is important to understand this phenomenon to improve low rates of colorectal cancer screening in vulnerable populations and to ensure that patients with signs and symptoms complete medically indicated colonoscopic evaluations.

Methods: We performed a 6-month retrospective review of outpatient endoscopy laboratory scheduling and procedure logs and electronic medical records at Denver Health Medical Center (DHMC), a large safety net health care system, to describe rates and sociodemographic predictors of colonoscopy nonattendance and inadequate (fair/poor) bowel preparation. Predictor variables included patient age, gender, race/ethnicity, procedure indication, and insurance type.

Results: The nonattendance rate was 41.7% for all scheduled outpatient colonoscopies without difference between screening and diagnostic procedures. Consistent with non-safety net systems, the rate of inadequate bowel preparation was 30.2%; however, the rate of poor bowel preparation that absolutely precluded an exam was 9.9%. Correctional care patients had markedly higher rates of nonattendance and inadequate bowel preparation compared with other groups.

Conclusions: A very large proportion of patients scheduled for colonoscopy in a large safety net health care system do not attend their procedures, and among those who do, there is a high rate of inadequate bowel preparation leading to incomplete and aborted evaluations. Interventions are needed to promote the more efficient use of a limited and expensive resource and to achieve higher rates of screening and medically indicated diagnostic colonoscopies in vulnerable patient populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Cathartics / administration & dosage
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Colorado
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Therapeutic Irrigation
  • Treatment Refusal*


  • Cathartics