Primary care reminder plus patient outreach intervention improved rates of follow-up after abnormal cancer test results

Oct. 16, 2023
Such interventions may improve patient outcomes through earlier diagnosis and treatment.

A recent clinical trial led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a founding member of Mass General Brigham (MGB), has demonstrated promising results for a multilevel intervention including an automated reminder in patients’ electronic health records (EHRs) and patient outreach efforts to improve the rates of timely follow-up after abnormal cancer screening results.

The trial, which is published in JAMA, involved 11,980 patients who were receiving care at 44 primary care practices and who had overdue abnormal breast, cervical, colorectal, or lung cancer screening results.

Practices and their eligible patients were randomly assigned among 4 different groups: 1) usual care, 2) EHR reminders, 3) EHR reminders and outreach (a patient letter followed by a phone call), and 4) EHR reminders and outreach plus a follow-up call by a patient navigator.

Patients in groups 3 and 4 were more likely than those in groups 1 and 2 to receive recommended follow-up care related to their abnormal test results within 120 days. The proportions of patients receiving such care in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively, were 22.9%, 22.7%, 31.0%, and 31.4%.

Similar trends were observed for completion of follow-up within 240 days and by subgroups of patients based on cancer type and by level of risk associated with their screening results. 

Mass General release