Provider Reminders

What to know

Reminders that patients are due for cancer screening help doctors increase screening rates.

A doctor holding a computer tablet talks to a woman patient


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 work over time and work well for different cancer programs.

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


Health care providers can help more of their patients get screened for cancer if they get reminders about when their patients are due for screenings. A study showed this practice increased screening and testing by more than 7%.

Provider reminders can be done in several ways:

  • Manual reminders: Staff can use stickers or notations on the medical charts of patients who are due for a cancer screening.
  • Electronic reminders: Some electronic health record systems can be set up to send screening alerts to providers.

How to develop a provider reminder system

For detailed information, see the Provider Reminder Planning Guide.

Get buy-in from providers and other staff by including them in the planning and setup process.

Create a process to ensure that:

  • Records are flagged properly.
  • Providers recommend appropriate screenings.
  • Screening tests are ordered.
  • Screening is completed or refused.
  • Refusal or results are documented.

Decide which records will be flagged by looking at:

  • The patient's age, sex, and risk factors.
  • The patient's date of last screening and upcoming appointments.
  • The type of test.
  • The US Preventive Services Task Force's recommendations for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening.

Monitor your efforts

  • Develop a plan to evaluate your system regularly and make improvements as needed.
  • Make sure providers receive the reminders.
  • Make sure providers are making screening referrals or ordering tests.
  • If you make changes, write them down and retrain staff as needed.

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.

Success story

New York clinics make it easier for doctors to screen

Each day, staff members give doctors a list of the patients who have an appointment that day and the preventive care services they need, including cancer screening tests. Read New York's story.