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colonoscopy ascertained only by visual record review, and physicians reported 27.9% of intervention patients were no longer active in their practice.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 (ClinicalTrials.gov ID number NCT00397969).