Helping patients understand the importance of colon cancer screenings
The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) released updates to guidelines in 2021 lowering the age of initial CRC screenings from age 50 to age 45. This new segment of the population may be less informed on the reasoning and benefits of receiving their initial screenings at age 45. Below are some ways to ensure that eligible patients understand the reasoning behind their screenings. Each of these forms of communication can be used together to ensure every patient remains well informed.
1. Explain in-person during a visit
The best way to clearly communicate information is person-to-person. Speaking with your patient directly ensures they are hearing and dissecting the information. Be clear and concise as to why your patient should consider scheduling their appointment before leaving (if they are 45 or older), or why they should begin preparing to schedule soon. This approach will also remain effective if utilizing telehealth services.
Another advantage of direct communication is the ability to answer patient questions quickly. For those who were previously unaware of the importance of CRC screenings, this new information will surely pose some questions. An in-person, or telehealth, visit can help you thoroughly provide the answers needed. They may also help calm the worry a patient might face surrounding the procedure.
2. Utilize email and traditional mail campaigns
Maximizing email is a key component to remaining in touch with patients. However, it can at times be tricky to walk the fine line between staying in contact and over-saturating your patient with info and reminders. Following an in-person or telehealth visit, craft a follow up email to be send 3-4 days later. This provides a “cool-off” period that won’t have your patient seeing your message as harassment.
For emails, keep your subject to the point. If you patient is of minimum CRC screening age and did not schedule an appointment, reinforce how critical the procedure is, and its ability to save lives. For patients who have unique circumstances where a traditional screening is not appropriate, provide alternatives and explain the benefits. As always, a test is better than no test.
Traditional mail will also need to be informative yet concise. With limited space you may ask that the patient call or email your office with questions or to schedule their appointment, along with other resources on screenings. An upside of traditional mail is staying power. A patient who sees this correspondence as informative or helpful may place it somewhere highly visible, providing a constant reminder of the importance of scheduling their procedure.
3. Inform patients via social media
Younger patients have closer ties to social media when compared to older patients. This makes utilizing platforms such as Facebook a great way to reach a large portion of your audience in one post. There are several ways you can inform patients of screening age and keep them informed:
- Gather content on the importance of CRC screenings or about the guideline updates from outside sources and websites and post to your business page.
- Create your own content and post to your website (if you already host content). You can then link to this page via Facebook.
- Create a post reminding patients age 45 and older to call or visit your website to schedule their screening.
Facebook is a valuable tool for patient recall and providing updates. Its place in our society makes it a staple on most of our mobile phones, and thus a valuable way to communicate with your patients.
4. Update your center or practice website
Having an up-to-date, effectively-designed, and user-friendly website can help patients answer every question they may have. During colon cancer awareness month, you may opt to create a small banner at the top of your website reminding patients of the reduced screening age, which can include a link to your scheduling portal for their next visit.
If your website maintains a blog or other content, consider sourcing information on how the reduced age impacts your patients, how preparations for the screening work, or even what happens during a routine screening. Providing outside resources can help confused or interested patients learn more on their own time and allow them to make a more informed decision.