(HealthDay News) — Low-cost interventions relying upon mailings, text messages, and phone calls can increase adherence to colorectal cancer screening with fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) among vulnerable populations, according to a study published June 16 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

David W. Baker, MD, from Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues randomized 450 patients seen in a network of community health centers who had previously completed a home FOBT (March 2011 through February 2012). Usual care included computerized reminders, standing orders for FIT tests, and clinician feedback on CRC screening rates. The intervention group additionally received (1) a mailed reminder letter, a free FIT with low-literacy instructions, and a postage-paid return envelope; (2) an automated telephone and text message FIT reminder; (3) another automated telephone and text reminder 2 weeks later when the FIT was not returned; and (4) personal telephone outreach after 3 months.

The researchers found that intervention patients were much more likely than to complete FOBT (82.2% vs. 37.3%; P<.001), compared to those in usual care. For the 185 intervention patients completing screening, 10.2% completed prior to their due date (intervention was not needed), 39.6% within 2 weeks (after step 1 of intervention), 24.0% (after automated call/text reminder), and 8.4 percent (after personal call.

“It is possible to improve annual CRC screening for vulnerable populations with relatively low-cost strategies that are facilitated by health information technologies,” the authors write.

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