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1.  Missed Opportunities to Initiate Endoscopic Evaluation for Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis 
Delayed diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC) is among the most common reasons for ambulatory diagnostic malpractice claims in the United States. Our objective was to describe missed opportunities to diagnose CRC before endoscopic referral, in terms of patient characteristics, nature of clinical clues, and types of diagnostic-process breakdowns involved.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of consecutive, newly diagnosed cases of CRC between February 1999 and June 2007 at a tertiary health-care system in Texas. Two reviewers independently evaluated the electronic record of each patient using a standardized pretested data collection instrument. Missed opportunities were defined as care episodes in which endoscopic evaluation was not initiated despite the presence of one or more clues that warrant a diagnostic workup for CRC. Predictors of missed opportunities were evaluated in logistic regression. The types of breakdowns involved in the diagnostic process were also determined and described.
Of the 513 patients with CRC who met the inclusion criteria, both reviewers agreed on the presence of at least one missed opportunity in 161 patients. Among these patients there was a mean of 4.2 missed opportunities and 5.3 clues. The most common clues were suspected or confirmed iron deficiency anemia, positive fecal occult blood test, and hematochezia. The odds of a missed opportunity were increased in patients older than 75 years (odds ratio (OR) = 2.3; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3–4.1) or with iron deficiency anemia (OR = 2.2; 95% CI 1.3–3.6), whereas the odds of a missed opportunity were lower in patients with abnormal flexible sigmoidoscopy (OR = 0.06; 95% CI 0.01–0.51), or imaging suspicious for CRC (OR = 0.3; 95% CI 0.1–0.9). Anemia was the clue associated with the longest time to endoscopic referral (median = 393 days). Most process breakdowns occurred in the provider–patient clinical encounter and in the follow-up of patients or abnormal diagnostic test results.
Missed opportunities to initiate workup for CRC are common despite the presence of many clues suggestive of CRC diagnosis. Future interventions are needed to reduce the process breakdowns identified.
PMCID: PMC2758321  PMID: 19550418
Inadequate follow-up of abnormal fecal occult blood test (FOBT) results occurs in several types of practice settings. Our institution implemented multifaceted quality improvement (QI) activities in 2004–2005 to improve follow-up of FOBT positive results. Activities addressed pre-colonoscopy referral processes and system-level factors such as electronic communication and provider education and feedback. We evaluated their effects on timeliness and appropriateness of positive FOBT follow-up and identified factors that affect colonoscopy performance.
Retrospective electronic medical record (EMR) review was used to determine outcomes pre- and post-QI activities in a multi-specialty ambulatory clinic of a tertiary care Veterans Affairs facility and its affiliated satellite clinics. From 1869 FOBT positive cases, 800 were randomly selected from time periods before and after QI activities. Two reviewers used a pretested standardized data collection form to determine whether colonoscopy was appropriate or indicated based on pre-determined criteria and if so, the timeliness of colonoscopy referral and performance pre- and post-QI activities.
In cases where a colonoscopy was indicated, the proportion of patients who received a timely colonoscopy referral and performance were significantly higher post implementation (60.5% vs. 31.7%, p<0.0001 and 11.4% vs. 3.4%, p =0.0005 respectively). A significant decrease also resulted in median times to referral and performance (6 vs. 19 days p<0.0001 and 96.5 vs. 190 days p<0.0001 respectively) and in the proportion of positive FOBT test results that had received no follow-up by the time of chart review (24.3%vs. 35.9%; p=0.0045). Significant predictors of absence of the performance of an indicated colonoscopy included performance of a non-colonoscopy procedure such as barium enema or flexible sigmoidoscopy (OR=16.9; 95% CI 1.9–145.1), patient non-adherence (OR=33.9; 95% CI 17.3–66.6), not providing an appropriate provisional diagnosis on the consultation (OR= 17.9; 95% CI 11.3–28.1) and gastroenterology service not rescheduling colonoscopies after an initial cancellation (OR= 11.0; 95% CI 5.1–23.7)
Multifaceted QI activities improved rates of timely colonoscopy referral and performance in an EMR system. However, colonoscopy was not indicated in over one third of patients with positive FOBTs, raising concerns about current screening practices and the appropriate denominator used for performance measurement standards related to colon cancer screening.
PMCID: PMC2921791  PMID: 19293786
3.  Older Patients’ Enthusiasm to Use Electronic Mail to Communicate With Their Physicians: Cross-Sectional Survey 
Recent evidence indicates increased access to and use of Internet and non-healthcare-related email by older patients. Because email adoption could potentially reduce some of the disparities faced by this age group, there is a need to understand factors determining older patients’ enthusiasm to use email to communicate with their physicians. Electronic mail (email) represents a means of communication that, coupled with face-to-face communication, could enhance quality of care for older patients.
Test a model to determine factors associated with older patients’ enthusiasm to use email to communicate with their physicians.
We conducted a secondary data analysis of survey data collected in 2003 for two large, longitudinal, randomized controlled trials. Logistic-regression models were used to model the dichotomous outcome of patient enthusiasm for using email to communicate with their physicians. Explanatory variables included demographic characteristics, health status, use of email with people other than their physician, characteristics of the physician-patient relationship, and physician enthusiasm to use email with patients.
Participants included a pooled sample of 4059 patients over 65 years of age and their respective physicians (n = 181) from community-based practices in Southern California. Although only 52 (1.3%) patient respondents reported that they communicated with their physician by email, about half (49.3%) expressed enthusiasm about the possibility of using it. Odds of being enthusiastic decreased with increased age (by 0.97 for each year over 66) but were significantly higher in African Americans (OR = 2.1, CI = 1.42 - 3.06), Hispanics (OR = 1.6, CI = 1.26 - 2.14) and men (OR = 1.3, CI = 1.1 - 1.5).
A perception of better communication skills of their physician, lower quality of interaction with physician in traditional face-to-face encounters, and physician enthusiasm to use email with patients were significantly associated with an enthusiasm to use email. Patients who did not use email at all were less enthusiastic compared to those who used email for other reasons. Half of the physician respondents were not enthusiastic about communicating with patients using email.
Despite perceived barriers such as limited access to the Internet, older patients seem to want to use email to communicate with their physicians.
PMCID: PMC2762805  PMID: 19632972
Electronic mail; doctor-patient communication; Internet; doctor-patient relationship

Results 1-3 (3)