Screening for Health

PCNs are reminding patients when it’s time for regular tests to detect diseases earlier

Life is busy and it can be easy to forget when it’s time for a regular screening test. That’s why Primary Care Networks are tracking your screening tests and giving you a call if you miss one.

Screening for diseases, such as breast or colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes, may detect problems earlier. Earlier detection means you can get started on treatments sooner and can improve your health outcomes.

With healthcare systems moving from old paper records to electronic medical records (EMR), your healthcare provider can keep a confidential, complete collection of your personal health information. Your family doctor can discuss such tests with you during your appointment and EMRs make it easy to remind you even if you don’t come in.

“We have more access to the information about the patients and we use it to improve care,” says Dr. Michelle Hart at Vantage Medical of the Calgary West Central PCN. “Now with the click of a button, we can see the tests that are due and a team member can phone and remind patients.”

Justine Yoc, a patient care coordinator at Calgary West Central PCN, calls about 100 people a week to remind them of a missed test. “If they don’t answer, I leave a message,” she says. “People are pretty positive and thankful that you’re calling them to update them. Some of them say ‘Oh it’s so busy, I totally forgot it’s been that long. Thanks for the heads-up.’”

Your PCN will remind you of a wide range of screening tests, including mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies. Other tests include a blood test and body mass index (a calculation based on your weight and height) to screen for diabetes; cholesterol and blood pressure measurements for heart disease; and assessing your bones for osteoporosis. Long-time smokers may be screened for lung cancer.

“Many other countries have been doing this for a while. There is very good evidence that calling patients to remind them of missed tests improves their health outcomes,” Hart says, “and patients appreciate the care.”

This story appears in the latest issue of Health Matters magazine. Read the full issue.