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Cancer. 1996 Oct 15;78(8):1708-21.

The effect of patient and physician reminders on use of screening mammography in a health maintenance organization. Results of a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, Michigan, USA.



Despite its demonstrated efficacy in reducing breast carcinoma mortality, screening mammography remains underutilized and its promotion in the primary care setting provides an important opportunity for intervention.


A randomized controlled trial was conducted in two sites of a health maintenance organization (HMO) serving an urban, minority population to evaluate the impact of patient and physician reminders on site visitation and mammography use. Eligible women (n = 2368) were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 intervention combinations (patient and physician reminders individually, together, or neither). The patient reminder letter invited mammography-due women to visit. The physician reminder was a notice placed in the medical record of mammography-due women. Logistic analysis and survival analysis were used to investigate the relationship of intervention status to visitation, time to a visit, and mammography use.


The patient reminder intervention had no effect upon rates of study year visitation or mammography at either site. However, among HMO Site 2 enrollees with entitlement insurance, the median time to the next visit was reduced from 12 to 9 weeks in association with assignment to patient reminder intervention. The physician reminder intervention was also effective in increasing the rate of completed mammography at Site 2 among all assignees (36% vs. 22% for those with vs. those without physician reminders) and among assignees who visited (59% vs. 43%).


Patient reminder letters had limited impact on visitation in this setting. Physician reminders are more effective but sites vary in their responsiveness. Further improvement in mammography utilization will require a better understanding of the determinants of patient and physician behavior.

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