Making colorectal cancer screening a priority

Mark Oberdoerster, M.D., Canton

Constant vigilance is the way Dr. Mark Oberdoerster’s office makes sure all eligible patients get a colorectal cancer screening done. Using electronic medical records and staff dedicated to checking alerts in those records, the Ann Arbor office has achieved a high compliance rate.

“We work off the Health e-Blue lists and we task certain employees to update those and flag alerts on the electronic health records,” says the doctor. “Every time we see a patient, we check the alert on the electronic medical record and see what we need to do. If it’s close to the end of the year and some patients are behind on their preventive tests, we start contacting them by email or mailing letters. In some cases, we’ll devote an afternoon to calling patients.”

Dr. Oberdoerster regularly recommends a colonoscopy to patients 50 and over. “I have a conversation with the patient. I let them know there are other ways of screening, but a colonoscopy has the highest level of specificity, especially if the patient has a history of adenomas or a family history of colon cancer,” he says.

Some patients worry about the procedure and may delay screening. “If a patient is reluctant, I explain that the procedure is better than early detection; it’s prevention. The vast majority of cancers arise out of polyps. But, we’ll also review options if they don’t want to do the colonoscopy,” says Dr. Oberdoerster.

There can be minor challenges to getting full compliance. “Most patients are concerned about the preparation for the procedure,” says Dr. Oberdoerster. “I let them know there are several options for preps and explain that they are sedated so they won’t feel discomfort during the procedure.

“Everyone is aware that they need to get screened for colorectal cancer," he says. “It just takes a little convincing sometimes.”

The office has always focused on cancer screening and other preventive tests. But Dr. Oberdoerster says, “We’ve gotten much better at tracking with the electronic medical record. And we participate in pay for performance programs. That’s just given us incentives to do a better job.”