Carolinas HealthCare System

Thomas Pacicco, MD, medical director of gastroenterology at Carolinas HealthCare System

Colonoscopy Campaign Results in 20 Percent Increase in Screenings

In an effort to increase patient colonoscopies and combat colon cancer, Carolinas HealthCare System recently launched a dedicated campaign to show how the procedure has improved over the years.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the US, but it doesn’t have to be. It is one of the easiest kinds of cancer to treat when it’s caught early enough.

"We saw that we had a big opportunity to increase colonoscopies within our System," said Thomas Pacicco, MD, medical director of gastroenterology at Carolinas HealthCare System. "And we saw how much this could really help our patients."

The challenge? While getting regular colonoscopies is the single most important thing someone can do to prevent colon cancer, many people don’t like getting the routine procedure. More accurately, people think they won’t like getting it.

“People have an image of the colonoscopy prep as being dreadful, and of the colonoscopy as being painful,” said Zeev Neuwirth, MD, president and chief clinical executive of Carolinas HealthCare System medical group. “But nothing could be further from the truth.”

To encourage patients to get the critical exam, the System shared the central message that the process and preparation for a colonoscopy has gotten much better over the years, and that getting the screening is now simpler and more convenient than ever.

How has the process gotten better?  First, preparation for a colonoscopy has improved. It used to involve drinking large amounts of a not-so-tasty liquid all at once. Today, the mix tastes better, and to make it easier to manage, it’s split into two smaller doses.

Also gone are the days when all patients needed a referral before getting the screening. To make booking colonoscopies a cinch, the System set up a central scheduling line to let patients book screenings directly without a referral or primary care appointment. To better accommodate patients’ personal schedules, practices began offering evening and weekend appointments. And to handle the increase in appointments, providers and staffing have been increased.

The result? Hundreds of patients have completed the vital screening – 20 percent more than during the same period a year before. More screenings means a greater likelihood of detecting and eradicating precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer, or of catching colon cancer while it’s still early enough to effectively treat.

 “This initiative is an excellent example of what we can do together as a System when we put our mind it,” said Scott Rissmiller, MD, senior medical director of adult acute care for Carolinas HealthCare System Medical Group.  “The collaboration among the many internal teams was the key ingredient for making this initiative a success.  This is truly the power of the System working together to improve care for our patients.”