Physicians, payors, and the healthcare industry continue to adjust to updated screening guidelines released in 2021. These guidelines, provided by the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), lowered the minimum recommended screening age for colorectal cancer from age 50 to age 45. As a result, physicians are continuing to attempt to find new ways to reach out to a younger demographic to help reinforce the importance of colorectal cancer (CRC) screenings.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a drastic decrease in the number of CRC screenings nationwide. As a result, more Americans found themselves facing the struggle of the disease in a later stage. Research has also shown an increase in the rate of young onset colorectal cancer, found in those under the age of 50.
Face to face meetings
These changes can create many questions among patient newly eligible patients. The best way to assist in understanding these changes to screening age for colorectal cancer is a face-to-face conversation in the exam room. Speak with these patients about the procedure, its relevance to their health, and why they should consider scheduling their screening as soon as possible.
Of course, there may be more questions than you can answer in one meeting. Encourage patients to conduct their own research following their visit. This additional insight gained from other sources can help ease any worry about scheduling their screenings. Some key resources you can recommend include:
Emails and flyers
You may not be able to speak with all eligible patients in a timely manner. To reach this group, you may opt to create an email campaign or send physical brochures through the mail. These forms of communication will allow you to provide the same detailed information your patients need without visiting in-person.
As part of these documents, you can continue to provide links to the above resources, or others you may prefer. The goal of your campaign should be to disperse this information to every patient eligible for the procedure.
Push for the colonoscopy
It is well known that the colonoscopy is “the gold standard” of colorectal screenings. This should be made clear to all patients, as to provide them with the highest quality of service and prevention. While some believe the colonoscopy to be a scary or an “unnecessary” procedure, inform your patients of common statistics related to colonoscopies, such as:
- The colonoscopy provides the most in-depth look into potential pre-cancerous polyps and can lead to early detection and removal.
- Colonoscopies are 100-percent covered by most insurance providers as a preventative procedure. Other test may not receive this delegation and pose a potential cost to patients.
- Routine screenings provide a safety net in catching this disease should it develop in the future.
These guidelines present a higher level of care available to a new generation. As a physician, you will be the first resource patients look to for insight and information. Your knowledge can help them make informed decisions and clear choices as to best handle their health.