VC improves screening compliance at military facilities

The availability of virtual colonoscopy appeared to significantly increase the rate of colorectal cancer screening in a study of individuals ages 50 to 75 from U.S. military medical facilities. Results of the study were published in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The researchers sought to evaluate the effects of including virtual colonoscopy (also known as CT colonography or CTC) among the approved exams under the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) metric, which provides quality measures for evaluating medical care across health plans. The group found that the availability of CTC would help drive compliance with recommended screening guidelines.

In the study, demographic and healthcare utilization data from the Military Health System Population Health Portal were analyzed to determine overall CTC utilization. Screening compliance for colorectal cancer according to HEDIS was estimated, and the researchers examined the effect for two regional Navy medical centers of adding HEDIS-eligible patients who had undergone CTC as their only screening test (JACR, January 2013, Vol. 10:1, pp. 30-36).

Across all sites -- 10 Army, four Navy, and three Air Force -- 17,187 CTC studies were performed, and utilization increased over the six-year study period (January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2010). At the two Navy medical centers, colon screening compliance went from a range of 33.8% to 67.9% when CTC wasn't offered to 33.8% to 84.0% when the imaging technique was available, the group reported.

"Our analysis demonstrates that CTC is being implemented with increasing frequency across [military treatment facilities] and that the inclusion of CTC ... could improve HEDIS compliance metrics in the presence of an integrated CTC program," wrote Dr. Brooks Cash, chief of gastroenterology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and colleagues.

Although CTC is included in the screening guidelines of several clinical organizations, "it has not yet been included as a qualifying test for the ... HEDIS [colorectal cancer] screening metric," they wrote.

A recent U.S. National Institutes of Health consensus panel on colorectal cancer screening stated that CTC is an important addition to the list of effective screening tests, and utilizing the full range of screening options is a way to provide significant improvements in screening levels and reductions in morbidity and mortality from colorectal cancer, Cash and colleagues noted.

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