The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 234,580 new cases of lung cancer in 2024 and roughly 125,070 deaths from the disease. Those are sobering numbers. 

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. It has one of the lowest five-year survival rates because cases are often diagnosed at later stages when it is less likely to be treatable.  According to the American Lung Association, 44 percent of cases are not caught until a late stage when the survival rate is only seven percent. 

Low Lung Cancer Screening Rates 

Only 25.8 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. Why is that the case, when screening with annual low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20 percent? 

Many people avoid or delay lung cancer screenings for a variety of reasons. For some, it is a fear of a diagnosis. For others, overdue lung cancer screenings are a result of barriers to healthcare resources or personalized education related to the importance of early diagnosis of lung cancer. 

Multi-level barriers to lung cancer screening include the cost of the screening or copay, reaching people in medically underserved areas who may not engage with the health system and a lack of plain language in educational materials about the dangers of smoking. Low screening rates can be attributed to a variety of other challenges, from complex eligibility criteria to the stigma associated with cigarette smoking — the leading cause of lung cancer. The use of other tobacco products and radon exposure also are culprits.  

Proven Advantages of Preventive Lung Cancer Screening 

Only six percent of patients who are eligible for a life-saving lung cancer screening actually get one, according to national averages. A scarce 4.5 percent of those at high risk are screened.  

The importance of lung cancer screening for early detection cannot be overstated. Tragically, lung cancer does not often show symptoms until later stages when it has already spread, and only about 30 percent of cases are diagnosed early. Symptoms like a persistent cough, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood may demonstrate that cancer is already present and growing. 

Currently, an LDCT scan is the only proven effective way to screen for lung cancer. The Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends annual lung cancer screening with LDCT in adults aged 50-80 years who have a 20-pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.  

Also referred to as low-dose helical CT, an LDCT scan aims to reduce cancer mortality through increased lung cancer detection at a curable stage. It’s utilized instead of screening with chest X-rays and/or sputum cytology, which do not decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer.  

LDCT is one of the first cancer screenings to target a high-risk group or behavior and provides myriad advantages. For example, the preventive measure increases early detection, decreases mortality, commonly detects incidental findings in other organ systems, identifies other modifiable conditions associated with smoking and increases opportunities for tobacco cessation.  

Multiple studies indicate that low-dose CT screening for at-risk populations can be successful in promoting early diagnosis. One study demonstrated a 10-year and 20-year lung cancer–specific survival rate of 81 percent in patients who were diagnosed with lung cancer through early LDCT screening. Among patients who were diagnosed with stage I disease, the survival rate was 95 percent. 

Automated Patient Outreach Using Conversational AI 

Many healthcare providers struggle to effectively reach patients who meet complex lung cancer screening criteria. In the absence of an effective patient communication strategy, many high-risk patients may continue to avoid a screening until they begin to notice signs of cancer. 

With increasing pressure on cost-reduction and quality reporting, providers are looking for alternative engagement solutions to traditional manual outreach. They strive to increase the response rate and improve lung cancer screening rates to generate the best possible outcomes for their patients.  

Automated communication methods are designed to proactively conduct patient outreach and spur patient engagement. They offer effective solutions for providers, practices and payers to proactively keep in touch with their patients before and after encounters without overextending already constrained staff and budgets. Preventative care is typically underutilized, but automated message delivery ensures patients understand what they need to do to take good care of their health. 

One of the newest tools providers can employ to remind patients to schedule preventive screenings is conversational AI. Used to deliver scalable and less costly medical support solutions that can help at any time via smartphone apps or online, it consists of computer systems that communicate with users through natural language user interfaces involving images, text and voice. 

Conversational AI automates more natural, human-like interactions or conversations between computers and users. It can be used by healthcare providers to respond to common patient questions and streamline some administrative tasks. How? By generating clear answers that mimic human interaction and asking follow-up questions if necessary.  

Generative AI can be used to target defined populations, ensuring patients receive relevant education about their individual lung cancer risks and the benefits of screening through an LDCT scan. They can even utilize conversational AI to schedule (or reschedule) a screening with their provider. 

When clinical providers invest in automated outreach, patients are more likely to engage and respond between appointments and while visiting the office in person. Call 540-516-3602 to start your interactive demo of Providertech’s conversational AI solution for patient engagement using test patient Sara Morales D.O.B. 7/20/81.