Web-based reminder system boosts mammogram rates

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A simple thing such as a computer-based reminder system for mammograms can improve breast cancer screening rates, according to a report in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The report looked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which implemented a web-based system known as PREventive Care REminder System (PRECARES) to assist secretaries in being proactive with patients due for screenings. The system provided monthly lists of patients due for exams within three months. Patients that do not respond are sent various scheduled reminders if they do not respond.

In 2004, a group of nearly 7,000 patients was divided; group one was sent reminders generated by the PRECARES program and another received normal care and did not receive reminders. A much smaller subgroup of 399 female employees at Mayo received intervention group reminders via email and were compared with another group of 448 women employees who received reminders via U.S. mail.

There was a notable difference between the groups, with the mammography rate at 64.3 percent among women in the intervention group, compared with 55.3 percent in the control group.

"For the employee subgroup, the screening rate was 57.5 percent for the control group, 68.1 percent for the U.S. mail group and 72.2 percent for the email group," although the difference between the mail and email groups was not statistically significant, the authors wrote.

"In 2005, after our study was completed, we implemented the proactive system of scheduling for mammography in our entire patient population, which includes 11,119 women between the ages of 40 and 75 years," the authors wrote. "The current mammography rate for this population has increased further to 71 percent."

The author noted that "many preventive screening services can be delivered without involvement of physicians or physician visits, and office staff can manage the preventive service needs of patients, which should also decrease the costs incurred by practices, patients and insurers."