Computerized reminders boost mammography screening rates

Findings of a new Mayo Clinic study published this week in Archives of Internal Medicine show that a computerized mail and phone reminder program can significantly increase the percentage of patients receiving preventive health services and improve the value of health care.

"National evidence-based guidelines say every woman over age 40 should have a yearly mammogram, but only about 65 percent of women nationally have had one in the last two years," explains Rajeev Chaudhry, M.B.B.S., the Mayo Clinic physician who led the study. "In this study we showed we can increase that percentage through a team approach, and we're applying the findings to other chronic disease and preventive services, too."

The researchers divided a population of 6,675 women aged 4075 into two nearly equal groups: one to get mailings and, if necessary, a phone call to remind them to schedule a mammogram; and a control group that did not receive reminders. Among the reminded group, 64.3 percent had their yearly mammogram, compared to 55.3 percent in the control group. As the program has expanded following the study period, compliance with yearly mammograms has now grown to over 72 percent, with 86 percent having had one within the previous two years.

Dr. Chaudhry said a redesign of the primary care practice to enable appointment secretaries to schedule preventive services was a key to the program's success.

"In the old way, a woman had to remember that it was time for her yearly mammogram and call her physician's appointment secretary, who then got the doctor's approval for the test," he explains. "Then the secretary had to get back in touch with the woman to schedule the mammogram. That made the process more complicated, time-consuming and expensive than it needs to be, with several places where missed communication could mean the test didn't get done. With our new electronic tool and our related practice changes, one appointment secretary can now schedule mamm

Contact: Lee Aase
Mayo Clinic

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