Colorectal cancer is a killer. Various forms of cancer of the colon collectively rank as the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States, according to the CDC. The American Cancer Society’s guideline for colorectal cancer screening recommends either stool-based tests or visual testing with a colonoscopy starting at age 45 and continuing until age 75 for most people, and in some cases to age 85. Myths and fears about colon cancer and colonoscopy screening interfere with many adults scheduling exams.

New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) academic health care system partnered with Emmi to develop a multi-media education program to reduce colonoscopy fears among D-H’s 1.9 million service population across New England. Emmi specializes in patient engagement and education and has worked with D-H since 2013 to produce animated web-based presentations to help patients prepare for procedures or manage chronic conditions.

Emmi also has interactive decision-aid programs patients use to choose when there is more than one way to test or treat a condition or whether or not to have a medical test. The decision aid process includes information about conditions, tests, and procedures in various formats including option grids so patients have insight into the factors and alternatives available when their physicians make recommendations.

In a controlled test with D-H patients, half were given access to the Emmi-produced colonoscopy presentation and the other half were given a standard information packet. The study found that the intervention group had statistically significant lower anxiety scores levels on a standardized test than the control group and also required lower levels of sedation during colonoscopies.

If fear plays a role in patient decision-making for colonoscopies and other tests or procedures, interactive materials that give patients a sense of control and involvement sounds like a win. There was no mention of augmented reality with the D-H/Emmi presentations, but adding immersive technology such as AR or VR technology might increase their power to influence patients.