posted by Rashi Venkataraman, Executive Director For Prevention & Population Health, AHIP
on April 25, 2018
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. In Minnesota, more than 2,500 people get diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. Headquartered in Bloomington, Minn., HealthPartners is determined to reduce the burden of colorectal cancer in its communities.
This became part of its strategy to reduce health disparities among different groups of patients. In 2009, HealthPartners analyzed rates of colorectal cancer screening and found that only 43 percent of patients of color were screened for colon cancer compared to 69 percent of white patients.
In response, HealthPartners launched three pilot projects to improve screening rates. A central component of the pilots was the annual Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kit, which allows patients to send stool samples by mail, thereby avoiding a more invasive colonoscopy that require patients to take time off work.
First, Park Nicollet, a multispecialty practice group that is part of the HealthPartners family, identified five of its clinics to serve as pilot locations beginning in January 2017. These sites received a list of all patients between 50-75 years old who had never received a colorectal cancer screening. More than 6,000 patients were mailed a FIT kit for more convenient testing. By the end of 2017, nearly 25 percent of the kits were returned and each site measured a 6-point increase in overall screening results.
Second, HealthPartners medical group also focused its efforts specifically on reducing the disparity gap. Beginning in September 2017, Park Nicollet sent FIT kits to only patients of color between 50 – 75 years old that had never been screened. Nearly 3,000 kits were sent out, along with instructions in seven different languages (Minnesota is home to the ninth largest African community in the country with African immigrants representing at least 25 countries in Africa). Follow-up calls with reminders also were conducted in seven different languages. Of the 3,000 kits distributed, nearly 25 percent were returned with a 3.5 increase in results over three months.
HealthPartners’ 2017 data show that screening rates have improved since 2009—67 percent of patients of color were screened (compared to 43 percent in 2009), narrowing the disparity gap to 11 percent. Thanks to these efforts, the Minnesota Chapter of the American Cancer Society, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Colon Cancer Coalition have recognized HealthPartners as the Colorectal Cancer Organization of the Year for 2018.
HealthPartners continues to explore opportunities to reach patients and members who still haven’t been screened. In addition to efforts described above, it’s also focusing efforts on unattributed members. Working with an outside vendor, FIT kits were sent to approximately 500 unattributed members. HealthPartners saw a 16 percent return rate for this hard-to-reach population as a result of this effort.