Screening programmes normally target specific groups of the population, identified as being potentially more susceptible to a particular disease or condition. Accurate data collection for health screens is particularly important, because screening often takes place prior to any obvious signs and symptoms of underlying medical conditions presenting themselves. The NHS has described national screening programmes as acting like a sieve, with the majority of the target population passing straight through, leaving only those requiring further examination to be ‘caught’. However, the subject of health screens is a sensitive one. General lack of knowledge and headline grabbing news stories can lead to public panic. In a bid to stop this, the NHS now publishes the following information for each health screen:
- Prevalence: The expected number of people in a target population to have the condition.
- Sensitivity: The percentage of people likely to be identified as potentially having the condition and referred for further investigation;
- Specificity: The percentage of people likely to be identified as not having the condition and not referred for further investigation.
In an ideal world, the sum of ‘sensitivity’ and ‘specificity’ would be 100%, in reality that’s not always possible, which results in:
- False positives: Those who do not have the condition but have been referred for further investigation and;
- False negatives: Those who do have the condition but have not been referred for further investigation.
Whilst false positives are an inconvenient, time-wasting, drain on resources they do not pose a health ‘risk’. However, false negatives could potentially be life threatening and it is of the highest importance to eliminate those and to maximise the sensitivity conversion.
Results from national screening programmes are entered into their own specific registry and published on the Public Health England/NHS England website. There are many different types of screenings available, such as sexual health and cancer screenings. Appointments can take place at hospitals, specialist clinics and even mobile sites to allow easy access for the pregnant and elderly.
DCC were approached regarding a national chlamydia screening programme for adolescents and young adults. Any sexual health screening must first overcome the barrier of stigma attached, in this instance this was tackled by an awareness campaign encouraging the young public to attend their local clinic. Once the target population has been persuaded to be screened, the next important issue is to ensure screening data is accurate. As mentioned previously, it is near impossible to achieve 100% accuracy in screens, with false negatives and positives evident, therefore it is important to eliminate data inaccuracy resulting from human processing error. Traditionally once a specialist doctor has conducted screening, a nurse, administrator or a database co-ordinator would enter the resulting data into the appropriate registry. The client already had in place a chlamydia screening form. DCC made the form fit for automated data capture. The ensuing result was that no manual entry was required, thus saving time as well as increasing accuracy via the extensive verification and quality checks process.
Feel free to look through our site, particularly our news/blog section as screening projects are just one of many different types of healthcare projects we have been involved with. DCC offers many services, from design of the data collection tool to the analysis and presentation of the resulting data. If you would like more information on screening tests please visit NHS choices. For enquiries regarding any of DCC’s projects please contact us directly.
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