Colonoscopy coaches help fearful patients keep appointments

When patients scheduled for a colonoscopy are contacted by phone by someone who’s already been through the experience, they are twice as likely to keep their appointment.

Researchers trained five peer coaches, who had had the procedure themselves, to contact patients who were a risk not to keep their colonoscopy appointment.  The coaches learned about communication, the biology of colon cancer, screening methods, and potential barriers to colonoscopy including fear and not understanding the colon cleansing preparation.

Patients in the study had missed many medical appointments in the past and were scheduled for a first colonoscopy.  To see what might improve the chances that they would come for the colonoscopy, half were randomized to receive a phone call from a trained peer counselor, half received a brochure about colonoscopy in the mail.

Seventy percent of those who received telephone support from the coaches kept their appointment.  Fifty-eight percent of those who received the brochure showed up for the test.  Less than half (forty-eight percent) of those who refused any support actually came for the exam.

During the call, eighty percent of the study participants said that the support was "very helpful" and most appreciated having insight from someone who had already been through the experience.  They also said that they learned more than their doctors had told them.

Barbara Turner MD and her colleagues wrote,

For patients who often fail to keep appointments, peer coach support appears to promote colonoscopy attendance more than an educational brochure.

SOURCE: Turner et al, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Volume 23, Number 1, January 2008.

A article about the study appears on Medical News Today, January 8, 2008

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