Automated system could efficiently identify high-risk osteoporosis patients

An automated system that identifies high-risk osteoporosis patients being treated for fractures and can generate letters encouraging follow-up is an effective way to promote osteoporosis intervention and prevent future fractures, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.

The researchers identified patients at least 50 years old with who were seeking medical help at the of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. They then analyzed treatment codes to find fractures that seemed to be from bone fragility—a broken bone caused by a fall from standing height or less. In all, 103 patients were identified.

To do this, researchers received data monthly from the hospital's finance department, which was used to autopopulate a spreadsheet created specifically to screen for . This database was then screened further to remove patients whose injuries were not consistent with fragility fractures. Letters were then computer-generated and mailed to the final list.

Evidence suggests that less than 30 percent of postmenopausal women and less than 10 percent of men with a prior fragility fracture are treated for osteoporosis.

"Our almost fully automated osteoporosis system identifies these patients, requires minimal resources—many of which are already currently in U.S. hospitals, but just need to be tapped—and delivers substantially improved osteoporosis intervention results," said Edward Fox, professor of orthopedics.

Patients were sent a letter within three months of their emergency room visit that explained that they may be at risk for osteoporosis and encouraged them to schedule an appointment with their doctor or the hospital's bone health clinic. A follow-up phone call was placed three months after the letter, asking if follow-up treatment had occurred.

For comparison, a group of 98 patients who did not receive letters were also contacted by phone six months after being treated in the emergency department for a fragility fracture. These patients were asked if they were being treated or had plans for follow-up after their fracture.

Of those who received letters, 60 percent had followed up. Only 14 percent of those who did not receive a letter had, or planned, follow-up care. Results were published in Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation.

Past research has been conducted on osteoporosis intervention programs, but the majority of programs have lacked automation or could be difficult to implement in an average hospital.

Since it is automated, this system reduces the potential for human error in identifying high-risk patients.

Nationally, osteoporosis contributes to more than 2 million fractures per year.

"Progressive bone fragility leads to greater risk for fractures," Fox said. "Hospitals treat , but they have no system in place to evaluate those same for osteoporosis to prevent the next fracture. This study's results are better than no letter or doing nothing, which is what most hospitals are doing, including the one piloting our program before it started this program."

Future studies should examine the effectiveness of using both a phone call and a letter to improve follow-up rates.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alendronate reduces adjacent-level vertebral fractures

Dec 30, 2013

(HealthDay)—For females with osteoporosis, the rate of adjacent-level vertebral fractures is relatively low, with reduced odds with bisphosphonate therapy, according to a study published in the Dec. 1 issue ...

Simple reminders may help prevent fractures

Apr 17, 2013

Reminding primary care doctors to test at-risk patients for osteoporosis can prevent fractures and reduce health care costs, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical En ...

Recommended for you

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

1 hour ago

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

Second bird flu case confirmed in Canada

17 hours ago

The husband of a Canadian who was diagnosed earlier this week with bird flu after returning from a trip to China has also tested positive for the virus, health officials said Friday.

What exactly is coronavirus?

Jan 30, 2015

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are straining public health systems and public health efforts meant to prevent and detect the spread of infectious diseases. This is generating a "perfect storm" of conditions for outbreaks. Among the infections raising concern is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, caused by a type of coronavirus, which emerged in 2012. ...

Scientists find Ebola virus is mutating

Jan 30, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers working at Institut Pasteur in France have found that the Ebola virus is mutating "a lot" causing concern in the African countries where the virus has killed over eight thous ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.