With "big data" comes big responsibility: outreach to North Carolina Medicaid patients with 10 or more computed tomography scans in 12 months.
Patients are being exposed to increasing levels of ionizing radiation, much of it from computed tomography (CT) scans.
Adults without a cancer diagnosis who received 10 or more CT scans in 2010 were identified from North Carolina Medicaid claims data and were sent a letter in July 2011 informing them of their radiation exposure; those who had undergone 20 or more CT scans in 2010 were also telephoned. The CT scan exposure of these high-exposure patients during the 12 months following these interventions was compared with that of adult Medicaid patients without cancer who had at least 1 CT scan but were not in the intervention population.
The average number of CT scans per month for the high-exposure population decreased over time, but most of that reduction occurred 6-9 months before our interventions took place. At about the same time, the number of CT scans per month also decreased in adult Medicaid patients without cancer who had at least 1 CT scan but were not in the intervention population.
Our data do not include information about CT scans that may have been performed during times when patients were not covered by Medicaid. Some of our letters may not have been received or understood. Some high-exposure patients were unintentionally excluded from our study because organization of data on Medicaid claims varies by setting of care.
Our patient education intervention was not temporally associated with significant decreases in subsequent CT exposure. Effecting behavior change to reduce exposure to ionizing radiation requires more than an educational letter or telephone call.
Biola, H; Best, RM; Lahlou, RM; Burke, LM; Dewar, C; Jackson, CT; Broder, J; Grey, L; Semelka, RC; Dobson, A
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