Dr. Doug Kavanagh
The following is a post from Dr. Doug Kavanagh, co-founder and medical director of OceanMD and practising family physician with the North York Family Heath Team.
Keeping patients up-to-date with screening tests is an important part of my job as a family physician. The most common evidence-based screening interventions in primary care, from mammograms and pap tests to colonoscopies, are effective for lowering cancer mortality.
This has led some provincial governments to incentivize physicians to increase population screening rates for these interventions through preventive care bonuses. For example, in Ontario, we receive a significant bonus payment if we can demonstrate that 80% of our eligible women have had paps. (Side note – in Ontario, this bonus will disappear in 2024, so now is a good time to screen patients).
Despite this incentive and the good intentions of physicians, screening rates are suboptimal. Some patients are eager and proactively come in for testing, but others are more hesitant to have screening done, they aren’t aware they should, or they simply forget.
Consequently we spend a lot of time and office resources attempting to contact patients (phoning, emailing, snail mailing, and so on) so that we can explain and book these tests. In the end, this work can seem overwhelming to busy clinics. Procrastination turns into neglect, and everyone loses.
Automating Screening Invitations with Ocean
Using Ocean, I built a series of patient-centric reminder questionnaires for the most common screening initiatives. Each questionnaire introduces the test, discusses the guidelines, asks the patient if and when their last test was done, and asks how they would like to proceed.
- Pap tests for cervical cancer screening
- Fecal occult blood testing for colon-cancer screening
- Colonoscopy for colon cancer screening
- Mammogram for breast cancer screening
- Bone mineral density testing for osteoporosis
Before each visit, my clinic uses Ocean’s secure messaging to send the relevant questionnaires so we can remind them about their mammogram, pap, tetanus shot, etc., all at once.
We can also send these messages in batches manually using group messages, or automatically by including them with appointment reminders. No phone tag required.
For patients without email, they can use Ocean Tablets in the waiting room to complete them when they arrive.
Regardless of how the patient completes their screening forms, the notes sync into the EMR automatically, providing both the plan of action and a formatted note that can be used with my automated EMR reminders.
By automating this process, my screening rates have increased, and my patients are ultimately receiving better care, without additional time and effort for clinic staff.