Healthcare News & Insights

Report: Limits to what telehealth can do

Telehealth has its place, but new research indicates it’s not a cure-all for patient interaction and education.

A team of researchers from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Harvard Medical School tracked patient responses to an outreach program for colorectal cancer screenings.

Over the course of two years, half of the patients got a yearly automated call reminding them to schedule a cancer screening. Software tailored the calls according to patients’ medical history, prior screenings, etc. The other 50% received only the standard screening reminder from their doctor during their annual exams.

At the end of the two years, slightly more people who received the calls had actually scheduled colonoscopies. But the increase wasn’t statistically significant.

Part of the problem in improving screening rates is that the automated call system only reached about 60% of targeted patients. And researchers pointed out that due to many patients’ discomfort with colorectal screenings, it may be particularly difficult to convince them to schedule the procedures.

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