Client (Patient) Reminders

Photo of a man checking messages on his smart phone

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

A message from a health care provider can help patients get the cancer screenings and follow-up care they need. A studyexternal icon 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’s 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.external icon 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:

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 or colorectal cancer screening program in your area. These programs can partner with you and provide support and technical assistance.

Success Stories
Photo of a woman reading a letter

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.

Photo of staff at the St. Petersburg medical home wearing humorous T-shirts to promote colorectal cancer screening with a FIT kit.

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.

Page last reviewed: November 10, 2021