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As healthcare continues its quest to deliver greater value, consensus is building on the important role preventive care plays in improving patient outcomes and reducing long-term costs. As a result, healthcare organizations are looking for new ways to engage healthcare consumers earlier in the patient journey. Increasingly, health plans and providers are collaborating on proactive patient outreach focused on preventive health and wellness.

The well-documented link between low socioeconomic status (SES) and increased incidence of chronic conditions makes low-income patient populations an ideal target for preventive health initiatives. There is, however, growing awareness that financially burdened patients suffer unique health barriers that could limit the success of those patient outreach strategies. Circumnavigating these limitations requires a better understanding of patient perceptions and motivations.

In the April issue of Diseases of the Colon and Rectum, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston studied barriers to colorectal cancer (CRC) screening among the poor. To better understand barriers to diagnosis and treatment, researchers interviewed 30 low-income patients diagnosed with stage III and IV colorectal cancer without prior colorectal cancer screening. Four consistent themes influencing participants’ decisions to seek (or not seek) diagnosis and treatment were identified:

  • limited resources for accessing care (structural barriers, such as economic, health care and health educational resources)
  • (mis)understanding of symptoms by patients and misdiagnosis of symptoms by physicians
  • beliefs about illness and health, such as relying on faith or self-care when symptoms developed
  • reactions to illness, including maintenance of masculinity, confusing interactions with physicians, embarrassment and fear

The research sheds light on barriers that exist in communication between patients and caregivers, highlighting a need for broader, more diversified engagement opportunities. Expanded efforts related to telehealth, mobile health and direct-to-consumer offerings from healthcare providers are needed to overcome economic barriers to care. Strategies that make personalized health education resources more easily accessible to patients are also needed. Simple, convenient communication forums that offer patients private, less formal (and less intimidating) opportunities for provider engagement can help mitigate fear and embarrassment during care encounters.

Findings also underscore the overwhelming impact that social determinants of health can have on patient outcomes. Further exploration of these and other variables influencing patient motivation and follow-through is paramount to effecting better outcomes among at-risk patients.

To help meet this end, BioIQ works with health plans and employers to facilitate CRC screening programs that keep patient preference top of mind. BioIQ’s CRC screening solution offers health plans, provider networks, employers and patients a customized portal that emphasizes:

  • personalized patient education
  • multi-modal communication
  • recommendations designed with consumer convenience and persona in mind

With a mission to impact 100 million lives, colorectal cancer screening is an area that BioIQ takes very seriously. “Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.,” says BioIQ’s Chief Medical Officer, Josh Sclar, MD, MPH. “It is also one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer when detected early. Colorectal cancer screening reduces mortality related to CRC by up to 33 percent.”

BioIQ screened over a quarter million individuals for colorectal cancer last year alone. To learn how your organization can implement a CRC screening program and improve the health of your members or employees, contact BioIQ at (888) 818-1594 or

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