Reduce Late-Stage Cancer Detection by Re-engaging Patients in Routine Screenings Now

July 19, 2021

// By Brad Wensel //

Wensel BradleyNow that widespread fears about the coronavirus are subsiding, it’s time to use your best marketing strategies, tools, and tactics to bring patients back for the cancer screenings they need. The evidence is overwhelming: Early detection saves lives. This article by Healthgrades‘ chief customer officer includes a case study about Trinity Michigan’s successful program to reach consumers likely to need pulmonology or oncology services. 

When it became clear in March 2020 that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. had reached pandemic heights, federal health officials and cancer societies urged Americans to delay routine cancer screenings. Providers and consumers heeded those recommendations, which led to an abrupt drop in screenings, but cancer doesn’t care about the pandemic. And while cancer screenings have resumed, they are still well below historical levels.

Cancer Screenings Plummet

According to a data analysis by the Epic Health Research Network (EHRN), screenings declined steeply for breast and cervical (94 percent) as well as colon (86 percent) cancer in March 2020 compared to average volumes in the three previous years. Over the next three months, an estimated 420,000 exams were missed. It’s too early to know the long-term impact of delayed and skipped screenings, especially without data, about the impact on screening levels of subsequent COVID-19 waves. At least anecdotally, oncologists are seeing later-stage cancers with a poorer prognosis in patients who missed screenings last year.

Scheduling regular screenings for breast, colorectal, and other cancers isn’t something most consumers look forward to in normal times, and many of us may still be taking a pass despite overwhelming evidence that early detection saves lives. Getting patients back on track requires concerted campaigns that appeal to various personas based on age, gender, lifestyle, and risk factors.

Health systems already have the communication and engagement tools to curb this trend. Their healthcare CRM, predictive modeling, marketing automation, contact centers, and other technology stand ready to identify those individuals likely to be at risk for specific cancers and personalize their outreach efforts to encourage the scheduling of overdue screenings.

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