Colonoscopy Patients Often Don't Recall Details or Results of Procedure


Sending patients home with information from their files can reinforce pertinent information.

Colonoscopy patients often don’t accurately recall pertinent details of their exam over time, according to study results presented at the 2015 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in October.

Researchers from St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit surveyed 200 patients via telephone to evaluate their patients’ recollection of their colonoscopy results and follow up recommendations.

The patients were split up into four groups of 50 participants based on the time lapsed from their most recent colonoscopy: four years lapsed, two years lapsed, one year lapsed, and less than two months lapsed. The patients were asked to recall information about their most recent colonoscopy, including the date, the findings (including polyps and quantity), and the recommended follow up interval.

The participants’ answers were compared to their electronic health records, which the researchers had obtained.

“Some patients don’t recall, some know they’ve had one but then start guessing as to how long ago it was, some don’t know who did it, or what was found, or what was done,” lead study author Amer Alame, MD, explained in a press release. “I truly had no idea what we were going to find.”

The less time that elapsed since the participants’ most recent colonoscopy, the more accurate they were in remembering the details — 94%, 42%, 30%, and 28% of patients in the two month, one year, two year, and four year time lapsed groups remembered the date of their most recent colonoscopy correctly to within a one month period.

Fewer participants remembered the results of the colonoscopy. About two thirds, a third, a third, and a little more than a third of patients, respectively, remembered the presence of polyps from their colonoscopy. About 40%, 10%, 7%, and 6% of patients recalled correctly the number of polyps found during their colonoscopy.

“Patients’ personal recollections of endoscopy results can be misleading,” Alame added, but mentioned that everyone involved in the process can contribute to increasing the knowledge of correct information.

Alame suggested reintroducing oneself every time the doctors see their patients, as he does, because it is important for physicians to repeat crucial information to their patients. Specifically, he said, repeating what procedure was done, what was found, and what the recommended follow up care should be are all important reminders for the patient.

Sending the patient home with a document of the same information for the patients’ files is another way to reinforce this information, he said. Finally, sending the information over to the patients’ primary care doctor is a good solution as well.

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