Wayne Memorial: Colorectal cancer screenings are too scarce in rural populations Health centers urge preventative screenings while addressing poor transportation and other barriers
Michelle Corrigan, RN, wellness and clinical care coordinator at Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers (left), and Melissa Rickard, certified family nurse practitioner, Honesdale Family Health Center (Photo provided)
HONESDALE — The Honesdale and the Carbondale Family Health Centers are urging patients to get up-to-date on colorectal cancer screenings. Melissa Rickard said a disparity in colorectal cancer screening exists in rural populations such as those served by Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers. “This can lead to a higher incidence of late-stage colorectal cancer diagnosis," she said. Some patients may also be invited to be part of a special program that awards a $20 gift card once their screening has been completed. Rickard spearheaded the screening emphasis in December as part of her graduate work for a doctorate in nursing from the University of Scranton. She wanted to assist patients who experience obstacles to screenings. The project uses two methods of reaching out to patients: Asymptomatic patients between ages 50 and 75 are counselled either during a routine office visit by their provider or by a representative of the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute about the importance of scheduling a colonoscopy or taking a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which tests for hidden blood in the stool. Based on the situation, some patients schedule colonoscopies or are handed FIT test kits before leaving the physician’s office. The FIT is covered by most insurance. Others are given the option to become part of the NRCI’s Patient Navigation Program. To date nearly 40 percent of the patients Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers has connected with Northeast Regional Cancer Institute have enrolled in the navigation program. Those who have enrolled and completed their screening receive the $20 incentive. “The purpose of my project was to develop evidence-based strategies to reduce barriers to screening such as lack of clinician recommendation, lack of transportation or limited health coverage,” said Rickard. “Through the Patient Navigation Program, NRCI works with patients to help them deal with some of these obstacles, and that is key.” Discussion of the project prompted Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers to encourage its providers and staff to speak to their patients about colorectal screenings more frequently and earlier on. The rate of colorectal cancer screening at the health centers for 2015 was 27.1 percent, jumping up to 40 percent in 2016's fourth quarter, according to Michelle Corrigan, RN, wellness and clinical care coordinator at the health centers. She compared statistics collected for the Uniform Data System, a standardized reporting system maintained by the Health Resources and Services Administration.