Mention the word “colonoscopy” and most people shudder. The fear, anxiety and discomfort surrounding colorectal cancer screenings stop many people from taking this potentially lifesaving step.

One in three adults aged 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer — a disconcerting fact considering that the disease, which is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S., is highly preventable.

If everyone age 50 and up had regular screening tests, an estimated 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be avoided.

Screening jitters are just one of the many barriers individuals face when it comes to complying with recommended health screenings, like colonoscopies, pap smears and mammograms.

From a lack of physician guidance, low health literacy and test misconceptions to a fear of pain, being asymptomatic and scheduling difficulties, understanding the myriad of compliance obstacles and implementing measures to address them is critical for closing gaps in care, improving population health, reducing healthcare costs, elevating HEDIS scores and raising health plan performance.

For nearly 30 years, Carenet Health has been in conversation with millions of healthcare consumers across all populations about preventive health screenings. These one-on-one conversations have helped us identify and thoroughly comprehend the numerous screening roadblocks. As a result, we’ve developed effective outreach methods and patient engagement practices that motivate people to take action, ultimately improving compliance rates and clinical and financial outcomes.

Here are three of the best practices we’ve identified for helping healthcare consumers overcome health screening fears.

#1 Leverage the power of words

The power of words can greatly influence human behavior. The term “colonoscopy” can trigger a negative reaction, ranging from a fleeting cringe to complete disengagement (like hanging up the phone). So instead, refer to this procedure as a “colon cancer screening.” This small change in words helps minimize apprehension and resistance, giving engagement specialists the opening they need to explain screening benefits, nonadherence risks and screening options, including a noninvasive at-home colon cancer test. By educating healthcare consumers on the procedures, outlining how to prepare for their screening (from the often-dreaded test prep to post-procedure recovery) and engaging them throughout the process, you can dispel misconceptions, concerns and fears that drive noncompliance while elevating people’s confidence, comfort level and readiness.

#2 Peel back the layers

It’s not uncommon for noncompliant members to feel guilty or ashamed for stalling on their health screenings, or embarrassed about their reasons for not following through. As a result, they may not readily share what’s holding them back, whether it’s finances, a language barrier, cultural beliefs, transportation issues, illiteracy, a mistrust of the medical system, the ick factor, or a fear of the diagnosis (especially when there’s a family history of a disease). In-depth sensitivity training and cultural diversity training can ensure that engagement teams are skilled in motivational interviewing and engagement techniques and that they know how to cultivate a trusted relationship and gently peel back the layers to reveal the root cause of an individual’s noncompliance. With patience, empathy and compassion, you can coax vital information from members that enables them to more effectively identify and address compliance barriers and drive positive behavior change. Taking this critical step to get people fully onboard before assisting them with care coordination decreases the likelihood of appointment no-shows.

#3 Seamlessly coordinate care

Understanding the human tendency to procrastinate, especially when the task at hand is unpleasant or daunting, you can help ensure screening adherence by seamlessly assisting people with appointment scheduling via a three-way conference call with an in-network provider. If members have multiple gaps in care, the engagement specialist can help them make multiple appointments during the same interaction, decreasing the chance for frustration and confusion. Also, because we know that life can sometimes derail the best of intentions, be sure to contact members shortly after their appointment to confirm if they kept it, and to help with rescheduling, if needed.

Contact us today if we can help your health plan or health system close gaps in care.

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