Use Reminder Systems

Reminder systems can be directed at physicians, patients, or both. There is strong evidence that reminders are effective at increasing screening rates for CRC.1 Examples of patient reminders are postcards, letters, and phone calls. Physician/office staff reminders include electronic guideline prompts, chart stickers, tickler systems, and tracking logs. These serve as visual reminders to ask patients about CRC testing or to remind them to schedule a screening test.


Key Points for Using Reminder Systems in the Office Practice

  • Personal reminders to patients by phone call are more effective than postcards and letters
  • Two patient reminders work better than one (e.g., postcard and phone call)
  • Age appropriate screening schedules should be placed on each patient’s chart. CRC screening should be part of the screening schedule for all patients 50 years or older
  • Paper chart alerts are generally colored stickers placed inside or on the chart cover
  • Logs or tracking sheets are used to follow the patient's progress through the screening process to ensure that it is completed. Abnormal results need to be followed-up. These can be filed alphabetically or placed in a tickler file until all the steps are completed. Note: An office staff member should be responsible for contacting patients until all steps in the process are complete
  • If the log is not kept in the chart, it is essential that the steps also be documented in the chart
  • A tickler file consists of a series of monthly file folders subdivided by week or day of the month. The file folder can be used for multiple reports, including CRC screening. When reports are received, the copy is pulled from the tickler file, the patient is notified, and the results are put in the chart. A designated staff member reviews all the copies in the file on a designated day each week or month. Orders with no results need to be followed up. A reminder with the patient's name and date to be sent may be placed in the folder for the subsequent year


  1. Sarfaty M, Wender R. How to increase colorectal screening rates in practice. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians [Internet]. 2007 Nov-Dec [cited 2012 Jan 30]; 57(6):354-366. DOI: 10.3322/CA.57.6.354