MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Nathaniel Ernstoff, MD
University of Miami
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Despite the best efforts of all healthcare providers, colon cancer screening is underutilized with screening rates ranging anywhere from 58-76% based on the state (American Cancer Society 2017). At best we are still failing to screen 25% of the population. Patients have serious concerns about colorectal cancer (CRC) screening with the most common barriers to screening being fear of colonoscopy and of the bowel preparation, amongst others. These barriers coupled with the lack of understanding of the risks, benefits, and the efficacy of screening contribute to our inadequate screening.
This study aims to prove that through education, and most importantly comprehension, patients will choose one of the 6 recommended colorectal cancer screening tests that best fits their preferences. In this study we had 24 patients who previously refused colonoscopy on 3 separate occasions, and had no other CRC screening, undergo a virtual reality (VR) demonstration, created by TheBodyVR, to see if education would improve the uptake of screening. Prior to the virtual reality demonstration, the patients completed a 5-item questionnaire which evaluated their baseline knowledge of CRC risk, polyps and screening as well as determining barriers to prior screening. The patient then viewed the VR demonstration which starts with an overview of colorectal cancer, followed by a tour through a virtual colon explaining and showing the viewer polyps and cancer.
Finally, the demonstration reviews and compares the strengths and weaknesses of all USPSTF-recommended CRC screening tests. After the study, the patients complete the same questionnaire, and in this study there was a statistically significant improvement in knowledge in all questions. Ultimately, 23 of 24 patients who previously refused colorectal cancer screening on 3 separate occasions chose to undergo screening after the VR demonstration, and about 50% have performed the screening 60 days out from the study’s completion.