iPad application doubles the number of patients screened for colon cancer

The implementation of an iPad application for colon cancer screening doubled the number of patients who underwent testing, according to a study published March 13 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In this study, researchers examined the impact and feasibility of the mobile Patient Technology for Health-CRC (mPATH-CRC) iPad app in increasing colon cancer screenings.

“Many barriers contribute to low screening rates, including patients’ negative attitudes about the tests, lack of awareness of the need for screening and competing demands for busy doctors’ scarce time,” said the study’s lead author, David P. Miller, MD, professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “In the ideal world, a doctor should discuss the need for screening with patients, inform them of the available options, help them make a decision and then order the test. All of this takes time, time doctors may not have if a patient has other concerns that need to be investigated.”

The mPATH-CRC app includes educational information about different types of screening tests and acts as a support tool for patients. The study enrolled 450 patients who were due for a cancer screening, splitting them into a group who received an iPad with mPATH-CRC while at their primary care physician (223 patients) or received usual care (227).

Results showed patients who used the app were twice as likely to undergo screening than patients receiving conventional care. Additionally, half the patients who used the app ordered their own screening. However, researchers did note that half the patients failed to complete their ordered tests.

“Digital health programs like the one we developed shouldn’t replace doctors. Rather, they should help doctors deliver better care and encourage patients to actively participate in their own care,” Miller said. “As a primary care doctor, I don’t mind admitting the iPad program can do a better job of teaching my patients about colon cancer screening than I can. After all, the iPad can use animations and videos, and I just have my voice and maybe some poorly drawn doodles.”