Client (Patient) Reminders
A message from a health care provider can help patients get the cancer screenings and follow-up care they need. 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, e-mails, 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 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force screening guidelines. 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.
Other things to consider:
- Your method of delivery and your messages should be tailored to your specific clients. For help, see the 2019 Colorectal Cancer Screening Messaging Guidebook: Recommended Messages to Reach the Unscreened.
- You may want to use patient navigators to help patients overcome barriers to screening.
- You may want to look into bulk mailing to lower costs.
- You should track undeliverable messages and update your patient lists regularly.
Make sure to monitor your efforts:
- Develop a plan to regularly evaluate your system 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.
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.
A community health worker wrote a reminder letter and sent it to 110 women in the program who were due for a breast or cervical cancer screening test.
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.