Missed Colonoscopies

Colonoscopies are a form of endoscopy screening procedure that can help detect a range of issues. They are crucial for the early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer, which is currently the fourth most common cancer in the UK. However, for various reasons, many patients choose to skip their colonoscopy appointments.

To boost attendance rates, researchers in the US have developed an AI tool that has shown promising results.

Here, we’ll explore the reasons why patients typically miss colonoscopy appointments, what the procedure involves, and how AI is helping to address the problem.

AI tool boosts colonoscopy completion rates

A conversational AI tool developed and trialled in New York has managed to significantly increase the colonoscopy completion rate in underserved communities. The tool, known as MyEleanor, was targeted primarily at low-income households and people of colour – groups that are the least likely to attend their colonoscopy appointments. In 2022, data showed that 59% of 3,276 patients either cancelled or did not show up for their colonoscopy, with only 21% completing the procedure.

MyEleanor works as a patient navigator, calling patients to discuss rescheduling, identifying barriers to attending appointments, offering live transfers to clinical staff, and providing procedure preparation reminders. It managed to engage with over half of the patients it contacted (1,368 of 2,400 patients), with conversations lasting up to nine minutes in some cases.

Of those who engaged, 58% (789 of 1,368) agreed to be transferred to a staff member to reschedule, and 25% of these patients eventually completed their colonoscopy screening.

Causes of missed colonoscopies

The study revealed the main reasons for missed colonoscopies. Transportation issues were a major barrier for 38% of the patients. Meanwhile, 36% did not perceive a need for the procedure, and another 36% put it down to time constraints. Lack of reminders from their healthcare providers contributed to 33% of the missed appointments. Medical mistrust was a factor for 32% of the patients, while concerns about the findings from the screening worried 28%. Financial concerns were also a barrier for 27%.

Alongside these logistical and perceptual barriers, some patients also feel embarrassed or anxious about undergoing a colonoscopy, often due to a lack of understanding about the procedure.

Addressing these concerns and providing clear, supportive information is therefore needed to help reduce anxiety, encouraging more patients to attend their appointments.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the inside of the colon and rectum. It is a vital tool for detecting colorectal cancer early, as well as identifying other issues like polyps, which can be precancerous.

The procedure typically takes about 30 minutes, during which a sedative is used to help the patient relax. A long, flexible tube with a camera (colonoscope) is inserted through the rectum to allow the doctor to view the colon. It also allows for removing any polyps or abnormal tissue for further examination.

The benefits of a colonoscopy are substantial. Early detection of colorectal cancer significantly improves the chances of successful treatment. Despite the slight discomfort and preparation required, the potential health benefits far outweigh the inconveniences.

If you need to schedule a colonoscopy, book an appointment at the Warwick Bowel and Hernia Clinic today.