Physician reminders to promote surveillance colonoscopy for colorectal adenomas: a randomized controlled trial

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jun;23(6):762-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-008-0576-2. Epub 2008 Apr 2.


Background: Most colorectal cancers develop from adenomatous polyps. National guidelines recommend surveillance colonoscopy within 5 years after such polyps are removed.

Objective: To determine whether surveillance colonoscopy can be increased among overdue patients by reminders to their primary physicians.

Design: Randomized, controlled trial of patient-specific reminders mailed to 141 physicians in 2 Massachusetts primary care networks during April, 2006.

Patients: Seven hundred seventeen patients who had colorectal adenomas removed during 1995 through 2000 and no follow-up colonoscopy identified via automated review of electronic records through March, 2006.

Measurements and main results: The use of colonoscopy and detection of new adenomas or cancer were assessed at 6 months by a blinded medical record review in all patients. Among 358 patients whose physicians received reminders, 33 (9.2%) patients underwent colonoscopy within 6 months, compared with 16 (4.5%) of 359 patients whose physicians did not receive reminders (P = 0.009). In prespecified subgroups, this effect did not differ statistically between 2 primary care networks, elderly and nonelderly patients, or women and men (all P > 0.60 by Breslow-Day test). New adenomas or cancer were detected in 14 (3.9%) intervention patients and 6 (1.7%) control patients (P = 0.06), representing 42.4% and 37.5% of patients who underwent colonoscopy in each group, respectively. Despite using advanced electronic health records to identify eligible patients, 22.5% of enrolled patients had a prior follow-up colonoscopy ascertained only by visual record review, and physicians reported 27.9% of intervention patients were no longer active in their practice.

Conclusions: Among patients with prior colorectal adenomas, physician reminders increased the use of surveillance colonoscopy, but better systems are needed to identify eligible patients ( ID number NCT00397969).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatous Polyps / diagnosis*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Colonic Polyps / diagnosis*
  • Colonoscopy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • Reminder Systems*

Associated data