Team-Tested Practices

Telling a Story Helps With Early Cancer Detection

Internal medicine UBT's personal touch inspires patients to return cancer-screening kits

When the North Lancaster Primary Care Team B unit-based team decided to work on improving colorectal screening rates, they adapted one from their colleagues at the West Salem Medical Office.

This two-pronged approach included both an outreach system and a plan to ensure team members were delivering a consistent message.

“Our patients are not a number or a statistic, they are a person, and they are looking for us to take care of them,” says department administrator, Primary Care, Phillip Taylor, who was the team’s co-lead at the time the project was underway.

So, team members made it personal.

They told the story of how physicians in the clinic had tested positive, but because the disease was detected early, they got treatment in time and are doing well.

In addition, the team identified its eligible patients between the ages of 50 and 75. When one of those patients came into the clinic, the medical assistant would talk about the importance of the test, give them a FIT kit to take home and return in the mail. When physicians saw patients, they would reiterate the need to do the test.

Nurses also played a role.

They would track the distribution of the kits and follow up with the patient if the kit had not been returned. When they spoke to patients, they would mention the physician was looking for the kit and the importance of returning it.

The combination of methods worked better than hoped—the team shot past its target by nearly seven percentage points.

“We’re looking for early detection,” says labor co-lead and medical assistant, Bill Waters, SEIU Local 49. “Colorectal cancer can hit anybody, and we explain how it’s impacted our own providers at our clinic. We add a personal touch by telling our story, and people respond.”

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