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Sources and Other Contacts

The follow-up process actually begins with the initial abstracting process. All information that may be useful for follow-up must be abstracted. If a patient is transferred to another hospital for treatment, the registry or other department there should be listed as a follow-up contact. Other follow-up contacts can include home care, nursing homes, or hospices. It is helpful to document any unusual circumstances such as blindness, difficulties in hearing, or the fact that the patient does not speak English.

Other possible sources to consider are listed in the Partial List of Sources page; however, the cancer committee or governing body must authorize the registry staff to utilize them. The method and dialogue of follow-up must be designated by the cancer committee. Most registries also review obituaries and compare them with their patient index files.

The National Cancer Registrars Association does not endorse any of the sources listed in the Partial List of Sources page. However, these sources have been reported by both hospital-based and population-based registry personnel as effective tools. When mailing follow-up letters to patients, families, or friends, stamping "Address Correction Requested" on the envelope is useful. The United States Postal Service will usually return the letter with a forwarding address within a certain time period. Registrars have reported success when sending letters by certified mail, return receipt requested. When the patient signs the card, the United States Postal Service carrier dates it. The signature must be verified with the health information record. If the signature matches, the follow-up is reliable.

Population-based registries usually keep on their records, all hospitals that have seen a patient, and serve as a repository for the best follow-up information. This information is then shared with all facilities who have seen the patient. Updated follow-up information received by the population-based registries from HCFA, Drivers License Records, Voters registration records, the National Death Index, etc. is also shared with hospitals.