*EMBARGOED All research presented at the 2020 ACG Annual Scientific Meeting and Postgraduate Course is strictly embargoed until Monday, October 26, 2020, at 8:00 am EDT.

Katie Farah, MD, FASGE
Katie Farah, MD, FASGE
Rita Cole, MBA, BS
Rita Cole, MBA, BS

P0732 Utilization of Telemedicine for Colorectal Cancer Outreach During the COVID-19 Pandemic: COLOVID-19

Author Insight from Katie Farah, MD, FASGE, Allegheny Health Network

What’s new here and important for clinicians?

Based on recommendations from the CDC in mid-March 2020, all elective procedures were cancelled during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize risk of person to person transmission. The Quality team for the Division of Gastroenterology at Allegheny Health Network developed an educational program via telemedicine and internet entitled “COLorectal Outreach Via Internet and Dial-in – 19 (COLOVID-19)”, and utilized patient resources provided by the American College of Gastroenterology in order to educate patients. Our aim was to continue our colorectal cancer screening outreach initiatives and provide an avenue for patients to reschedule screening colonoscopies for the near future despite many uncertainties that existed. A document on colon cancer screening with instructions for rescheduling procedures was prepared by a group of physicians and nurses. Nurses, fellows, physicians and practice staff provided outreach to patients whose screening colonoscopy was rescheduled. The checklist was shared as part of the patient’s online Electronic Health Record (EHR) which allowed for two-way conversation between the medical provider and the patient. Any patients who not reached via EHR received a telephone call and the checklist was also mailed. In addition, those patients who had not been set up in the electronic health record were given the opportunity to receive assistance by telephone from our staff through the app on their tablet or smartphone. This improved access to our patients and helped in our communication regarding resources for colorectal cancer screening as well as health tips via remote access. Patients were given the opportunity to ask questions and have all of their concerns addressed which was greatly appreciated as per patient feedback.

Improved strategies to communicate to patients about the importance of colorectal cancer screening are a necessary component of improving screening rates. This is even more significant in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic which puts limitations on access and feasibility of colon cancer screening as many patients are hesitant to go forward with screening at this time. This is important as the surge of COVID-19 cases can vary by location, season, and patient demographics. In light of the fact that up to 30-35% of patients remain unscreened, the dialogue regarding colorectal cancer screening must continue and we can continue to make meaningful progress towards improving colon cancer screening rates despite the challenges presented by the pandemic throughout the entire year in a way that had not been done to date. That would be through remote access.

What do patients need to know?

  • Screening for colorectal cancer is essential and we are still only screening approximately 65% of patients in the country.
  • We developed the COLOVID-19 point checklist to ensure a continuum of education and communication with respect to colorectal cancer awareness and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensured that patients had an adequate follow-up plan for screening colonoscopies which were deferred.
  • Patients were reminded of the importance of taking care of themselves both physically and mentally with advice regarding exercise, diet, and limitation of alcohol and tobacco usage to keep their colon healthy.
  • Information was provided for understanding colonoscopy, what to expect from bowel preparation, and interventions which can during colonoscopy.
  • Patients were encouraged to educate family and friends who had not had their screening colonoscopy to date about the importance of colon cancer screening and early detection in an effort to convince them to schedule their colonoscopy.
  • The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1 in 23 patients and that it is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the U.S. There will be an estimated 147,950 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2020. Sixty-percent of colorectal cancer deaths can be prevented with screening so please schedule your colonoscopy soon!

    Read the Abstract

    Author Contacts
    Katie Farah, MD, FASGE, Allegheny Health Network
    katie.farah [at] ahn [dot] org

    Rita Cole, MBA, BS, Allegheny Health Network
    rita.cole [at] ahn [dot] org

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