Colonoscopy survey, guidelines aim to improve patient care

COMMONPLACE: Close to one million colonoscopies are carried out each year.
COMMONPLACE: Close to one million colonoscopies are carried out each year.

FOR lunch today, it’s plain yoghurt, a banana and some laxatives.

The low-fibre meal is the last one Emily Bronx, 33, can have until dinner the next evening. Tomorrow, she is having a colonoscopy. 

It’s the first time she’s had the procedure, a routine check-up thanks to a family history of bowel cancer.

“I’m a little nervous. I don’t like the idea of the feeling of being put to sleep and the needles associated with it,” she said.

Emily is one of the almost one million people who has a colonoscopy each year.

But despite it being common, the procedure is medically complex and comes with risks, such as bowel perforation.

New clinical standards have been introduced to ensure colonoscopies are only done when necessary.

Launched by the Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, the guidelines aim to ensure high-quality and timely colonoscopies.

“This is an advanced procedure and we don’t want it being performed unnecessarily,” said Gastroenterological Society of Australia spokesperson Dr Iain Skinner.

“Fewer unnecessary colonoscopies will free up access to more timely colonoscopies for those who are at moderate or high risk, such as those with a history of polyps or a significant family history of bowel cancer, or those who return a positive bowel screening test.”

The commission’s clinical director Anne Duggan said it was the first time a clinical care standard for colonoscopy had been introduced. 

“We want to ensure consumers considering a colonoscopy are well informed about each stage, so it offers guidance to patients on how to talk to their doctor and how to do great bowel preparation, so they don’t have to repeat the procedure or wonder if something was missed,” she said.

Professor Duggan stressed the importance of taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program after 50.

“The ‘poo test’ is a very good way to determine if a patient needs a colonoscopy. A positive result from the ‘poo test’ doesn’t mean you’ve got bowel cancer but does mean that you need a colonoscopy, and a negative result is a great reassurance.”

Ask the patient

Bowel Cancer Australia has launched a new survey to improve colonoscopy care.

My Colonoscopy Experience is an anonymous, online questionnaire that asks about the patient’s experience. It covers all aspects of the procedure including referral, pre-admission, care and treatment, staff interaction, discharge and post-procedure care.

Bowel Cancer Australia’s chief executive Julien Wiggins said the questionnaire was created to complement the new Colonoscopy Clinical Care Standard.

He said the standards were a welcome first step, but included no specific indicators to measure patient experience.

“Patient experience must be the cornerstone of patient-centred colonoscopy care,” he said.

“User-friendly and easy to understand, the questionnaire only takes a small amount of time to complete but can have a big impact by ensuring the patient voice is heard so that future colonoscopy care reflects what patients want and need.”

Anyone over 18 who has had a recent colonoscopy can provide feedback at

Name has been changed.

This story Colonoscopy stories wanted first appeared on The Senior.