National Cancer Institute awards $1.6 million grant to test iPad colon cancer screening app

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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WINSTON-SALEM — Doctors know that screening for colorectal cancer reduces mortality. However, more than one-third of age-eligible Americans go unscreened every year even though colon cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

In an effort to increase colorectal screenings, doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Health developed a specially designed iPad application that allows patients to order a colon cancer screening test while waiting at the doctor’s office before a routine primary care visit.

Called mobile Patient Technology for Health-CRC (mPATH-CRC), the iPad app informs patients of their need for screening, helps them make a screening decision, lets them “self-order” a screening test and sends automated electronic messages to help them complete their chosen test.

Findings from a previous randomized trial of 450 patients published in the April 2018 edition of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine showed that use of the mPATH-CRC app doubled the proportion of patients who completed their colorectal screening.

Now thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, mPATH-CRC will be tested in 28 primary care clinics in North Carolina and Kentucky.

“While hundreds of mobile health apps have been developed in recent years, the best strategies for incorporating apps in routine primary care remain unknown,” said the study’s principal investigator, David Miller, M.D., professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health.

“Patients often have down time while they are waiting for their doctor. Our mPATH-CRC app makes good use of that currently wasted time by empowering patients with the tools and information they need to get the colorectal cancer screening test that is right for them,” Miller said.

This five-year project is designed to determine the optimal way to implement mPATH-CRC and other technology-based programs in community-based primary care practices, increasing the use of life-saving screening tests and improving the delivery of medical care.