Background: A pre-colonoscopy consultation in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening is necessary to assess a screenee's general health status and to explain benefits and risks of screening. The first option allows for personal attention, whereas a telephone consultation does not require travelling. We hypothesised that a telephone consultation would lead to higher response and participation in CRC screening compared with a face-to-face consultation.
Methods: A total of 6600 persons (50-75 years) were 1:1 randomised for primary colonoscopy screening with a pre-colonoscopy consultation either face-to-face or by telephone. In both arms, we counted the number of invitees who attended a pre-colonoscopy consultation (response) and the number of those who subsequently attended colonoscopy (participation), relative to the number invited for screening. A questionnaire regarding satisfaction with the consultation and expected burden of the colonoscopy (scored on five-point rating scales) was sent to invitees. Besides, a questionnaire to assess the perceived burden of colonoscopy was sent to participants, 14 days after the procedure.
Results: In all, 3302 invitees were allocated to the telephone group and 3298 to the face-to-face group, of which 794 (24%) attended a telephone consultation and 822 (25%) a face-to-face consultation (P=0.41). Subsequently, 674 (20%) participants in the telephone group and 752 (23%) in the face-to-face group attended colonoscopy (P=0.018). Invitees and responders in the telephone group expected the bowel preparation to be more painful than those in the face-to-face group while perceived burden scores for the full screening procedure were comparable. More subjects in the face-to-face group than in the telephone group were satisfied by the consultation in general: (99.8% vs 98.5%, P=0.014).
Conclusion: Using a telephone rather than a face-to-face consultation in a population-based CRC colonoscopy screening programme leads to similar response rates but significantly lower colonoscopy participation.