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Evaluation of the use of decision-support software in carcino-embryonic antigen (CEA)-based follow-up of patients with colorectal cancer

Charlotte J Verberne1*, Cornelis H Nijboer1, Geertruida H de Bock2, Irene Grossmann3, Theo Wiggers1 and Klaas Havenga1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen, PO Box 30001, 9700 RB Groningen, the Netherlands

2 Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, PO Box 30001, 9700 RB Groningen, the Netherlands

3 Department of Surgery, Catharina Hospital, PO Box 1350, 5602 ZA Eindhoven, the Netherlands

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2012, 12:14  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-14

Published: 5 March 2012

Abstract

Background

The present paper is a first evaluation of the use of "CEAwatch", a clinical support software system for surgeons for the follow-up of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. This system gathers Carcino-Embryonic Antigen (CEA) values and automatically returns a recommendation based on the latest values.

Methods

Consecutive patients receiving follow-up care for CRC fulfilling our in- and exclusion criteria were identified to participate in this study. From August 2008, when the software was introduced, patients were asked to undergo the software-supported follow-up. Safety of the follow-up, experiences of working with the software, and technical issues were analyzed.

Results

245 patients were identified. The software-supported group contained 184 patients; the control group contained 61 patients. The software was safe in finding the same amount of recurrent disease with fewer outpatient visits, and revealed few technical problems. Clinicians experienced a decrease in follow-up workload of up to 50% with high adherence to the follow-up scheme.

Conclusion

CEAwatch is an efficient software tool helping clinicians working with large numbers of follow-up patients. The number of outpatient visits can safely be reduced, thus significantly decreasing workload for clinicians.

Keywords:
follow-up; colorectal cancer; workflow automation