Client (Patient) Reminders

What to know

A message from a health care provider can help patients get the cancer screenings and follow-up care they need.

A man making a call on his cell phone


Evidence-based interventions are strategies that are proven to work. The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends several interventions to increase screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers. They include actions designed to reach patients and actions designed to reach health care providers.

Evidence suggests that combining two or more strategies increases community demand for and access to cancer screening and lowers costs. Strategies should be added to your clinic's daily work process in ways that ensure they will last over time and work well for different cancer programs.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends client reminders for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening.


A study of client reminders found that these interventions increased breast cancer screenings by 12% and cervical and colorectal cancer screenings by 10%.

Reminders can be written or verbal. Health systems can choose the approach that is best for their clinics and patients:

  • Written reminders: Letters, postcards, emails, and messages sent through online patient portals.
  • Telephone messages: Direct calls, text messages, and automated prerecorded messages.

How to develop a client reminder system

For detailed information, see the Client (Patient) Reminder Planning Guide.

Decide which patients need reminders and when you will contact them. You can start by looking at the US Preventive Services Task Force screening recommendations. You should also consider patients' age, sex, date of last screening, and risk factors.

Next, you will need to:

  • Get buy-in from your providers and other staff by including them in the planning and set-up process.
  • Review your electronic health record system to see if it needs to be upgraded. For example, can it generate reports on the status of cancer screenings for individual patients and link their patient records to reminders?
  • Develop protocols for client reminders and screening referrals.
  • Develop your reminder messages.
  • Identify staff who will send client reminders.
  • Add the reminder protocol to your daily work process.
  • Train all staff who will use the system.
  • Decide how patient responses will be documented and how to handle undeliverable reminders.

Find a CDC-funded breast and cervical cancer screening or colorectal cancer control program in your area. These programs can partner with you and provide support and technical assistance.

Other things to consider

Monitor your efforts

  • Develop a plan to evaluate your system regularly and make improvements as needed.
  • Track your efforts to make sure patients were identified correctly and reminders were sent successfully.
  • If you make changes, write them down and retrain staff as needed.

Success story

New strategies bring big rewards in Florida

A public health clinic in Florida more than doubled its colorectal cancer screening rates after it hired a patient navigator and created a patient reminder system. Read Florida's story.