An automated system that is designed to identify high-risk osteoporosis patients being treated for fractures can generate letters encouraging follow-up, which can be an effective way to promote osteoporosis intervention and prevent future fractures, according to researchers with the Penn State College of Medicine. For the study, the research team identified patients at least 50-years-old with fractures who were seeking medical help at the emergency department of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The researchers then analyzed treatment codes to find fractures that seemed to be from bone fragility. In order 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 osteoporosis. The 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.

A total of 103 patients were identified. According to a Science Daily news report, patients were sent a letter within 3 months of their ER visit that explained they may be at risk for osteoporosis and encouraged them to schedule an appointment with their doctor or the hospital’s bone health clinic. In addition, a follow-up call was placed 3 months after the letter asking if follow-up treatment had occurred.

Of those who received letters, 60% had followed up, while only 14% of those who did not receive a letter had, or planned, follow-up care. The Science Daily news report notes that since the system is automated, it reduces the potential for human error in identifying high-risk patients.

Edward Fox, MD, professor of orthopedics at Penn State, says, “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.”

Sources: Science Daily, Penn State