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For health professionals

Case study: Implementing a systematic approach to cancer screening in general practice

This activity formed part of three activities in a project co-designed by Cancer Council Victoria and South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (SEMPHN) to improve cancer screening participation in the SEMPHN region. The objective of the first activity was to increase cancer screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancer in general practice.

SMS recall and reminder system

An SMS recall and reminder system was implemented across the region. General practices identified patients from their clinical information systems who were eligible for one of the national cancer screening programs. Text messages were sent to patients to remind them they were due for screening and to promote the importance of regular screening.


  • 53 expressions of interest received to trial the SMS recall and reminder system
  • 35 practices recruited
  • 27 practices participated
  • 22 (81%) completed the PDSA cycle activity

Recalls and Reminders

  • 10,903 SMSs were sent from 26 of the 27 practices
  • 4,750 (44%) were read
  • 2,175 appointments were booked
  • 684 cervical screens undertaken in the immediate period after the SMSs


  • 14 practices completed an evaluation survey
  • 64% believed they had increased requests for screening during the project
  • Most practices found the system useful


  • 71% of practices intend to continue with SMS recalls and reminders for bowel and breast cancer screening
  • 86% intend to continue using the system for cervical screening reminders

This SMS recall and reminder system activity has been made possible through funding provided by the Australian Government under the South Eastern Melbourne PHN