Low endoscopy completion rates are a major problem nationwide and in the VA. For clinics, delays or failure to complete exams can cause clinic inefficiencies, such as increased wait times for needed procedures, lost capacity, and increased costs. For patients, delays reduce the chance for recommended timely screening consistent with practice guidelines and for diagnostic tests, can cause significant anxiety, delayed treatment and possibly poorer prognosis. This study tests whether an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) messaging system is equally effective in motivating patients to complete a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy as usual clinical care practices, which include reminder phone calls from clinic nurses. This is the first study to evaluate the use of IVR for endoscopy completion and the first to compare it to the effectiveness of phone calls from nurses prior to an endoscopy appointment.
The primary set of objectives was to test whether IVR messaging was equivalent to clinic usual care (UC) practices in motivating patients to attend a scheduled flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy appointment and to adequately prepare for the exam. Secondary objectives included comparing patient satisfaction with UC and IVR phone calls and assessing if IVR or UC was more effective for sub-groups that may have more difficulty with preparation, including those with poor physical and mental functioning, health literacy, social support and trust in physicians and those with spinal cord injury, paraplegia, PTSD, or with little intention to be tested for colorectal cancer in the future.
This was a stratified 3-arm randomized controlled trial among patients with upcoming flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy appointments. All patients who had a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy appointment scheduled from August 20, 2007 through October 31, 2008 were assessed for inclusion in this study. Patients were not considered eligible if, based on a medical record review prior to randomization, they had unreliable means of receiving the intervention or the intervention would have provided inappropriate or inaccurate information. The three study arms included: 1) UC (nurse phone call 7 days prior to the procedure); 2) IVR7 (call from IVR system 7 days prior to procedure); and, 3) IVR3 (call from IVR system 3 days prior to procedure). One week after the initial appointment self-administered surveys were sent to all participants to assess satisfaction with reminder/motivation calls. Appointment and gastrointestinal (GI) procedure data were extracted from medical record files to assess study outcomes. The principal outcome measures were (1) attendance at the scheduled endoscopy appointment; (2) adequate preparation for the exam; (3) patient satisfaction with reminder/motivation telephone calls.
Patients in this intervention were equally as likely to attend their appointment and adequately prepare for the examination compared to those in UC. We did not find that the timing of the intervention (providing reminder call 7 vs. 3 days prior to the appointment) affected completion rates. Nearly 20% had either negative or strongly negative feelings about the pre-appointment phone call. Of those, significantly more patients were in the IVR7 and IVR3 groups than in the UC group.
Busy GI clinics may find IVR system an effective system at communicating complex information to patients. However, patients still prefer to talk to a nurse or health professional before the appointment. The study extends the use of an established technology (IVR) to test its effectiveness in relation to a gold standard (nurse telephone calls), but also assesses patient satisfaction with the technology.
- Griffin JM, Hulbert EM, Vernon SW, Nelson D, Hagel EM, Nugent S, Baines Simon A, Bangerter A, van Ryn M. Improving endoscopy completion: effectiveness of an interactive voice response system. The American journal of managed care. 2011 Mar 1; 17(3):199-208.