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Med Care. 2008 Sep;46(9 Suppl 1):S117-22. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181805e3c.

Implementing an intervention to promote colon cancer screening through e-mail over the Internet: lessons learned from a pilot study.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, The University of Texas-Houston School of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.



Colon cancer screening (CRCS) tests are underused. Multiple CRCS options may confuse patients and lead to inaction. E-mail between patients and physicians may raise awareness about CRCS and allow physicians to answer questions about test options.


To develop and implement an electronic intervention, the InterNet LETter (NetLET), to increase interest in and use of CRCS among patients with and without e-mail access at home or work.


During 2004-2005, 97 patients over 49 years old were recruited during a clinic visit. Patients with e-mail at home or work were assigned to the private access arm; patients without e-mail but willing to use the public library system were assigned to the public access arm. Within each arm, patients were randomized to the NetLET or control group. The NetLET consisted of a personalized e-mail from the physician reminding the patient to undergo CRCS and providing a link to a webpage with information about CRCS. Control groups were mailed a reminder letter from their physician. All were mailed a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit.


In the public access intervention group, only 1 of 11 patients viewed the NetLET. In the private access intervention group, 10 of 42 viewed it. Eleven of 42 (26%) private access intervention group participants, and 8 of 35 (23%) private access control group participants returned an FOBT. No public access intervention group patients, but 3 of 9 control group patients, returned an FOBT.


We concluded that it was not feasible to implement the NetLET, but reasons for lack of success differed for the private and public access arms.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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