Getting patients back for routine colorectal cancer screening: Randomized controlled trial of a shared decision-making intervention

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Cancer medicine


Thousands of colonoscopies were canceled during the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. As facilities resumed services, some patients were hesitant to reschedule. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a decision aid plus telephone coaching would increase colorectal cancer (CRC) screening and improve patient reports of shared decision making (SDM). A randomized controlled trial assigned adults aged 45-75 without prior history of CRC who had a colonoscopy canceled from March to May 2020 to intervention (n = 400) or usual care control (n = 400) arms. The intervention arm received three-page decision aid and call from decision coach from September 2020 through November 2020. Screening rates were collected at 6 months. A subset (n = 250) in each arm was surveyed 8 weeks after randomization to assess SDM (scores range 0-4, higher scores indicating more SDM), decisional conflict, and screening preference. The sample was on average, 60 years old, 53% female, 74% White, non-Hispanic, and 11% Spanish speaking. More intervention arm patients were screened within 6 months (35% intervention vs 23% control, p < 0.001). The intervention respondents reported higher SDM scores (mean difference 0.7 [0.4, 0.9], p < 0.001) and less decisional conflict than controls (-21% [-35%, -7%], p = 0.003). The majority in both arms preferred screening versus delaying (68% intervention vs. 65% control, p = 0.75). An SDM approach that offered alternatives and incorporated patients' preferences resulted in higher screening rates. Patients who are overdue for CRC screening may benefit from proactive outreach with SDM support.