In 2017, Cancer Council and South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (SEMPHN) used HotDoc to run a pilot project, which involved 5 medical centres sending out over 3,000 SMS recalls and reminders for bowel, breast and cervical screening programs.

After receiving some promising results, Cancer Council and SEMPHN decided to recruit more practices and roll out a larger program from July 2017 until April 2018.

The cancer screening program


Receiving expressions of interest from 53 clinics, 35 were shortlisted and 26 participated in the program, which involved identifying patients who were eligible for one of the national cancer screening programs and sending them an SMS reminder letting them know they were due for either a bowel, breast or cervical screening.

A total of 10,903 SMS’ were sent by 26 practices with 4,750 (44%) SMS’ being read. Of those, 2,175 (20%) appointments were booked and 684 cervical screenings were undertaken in the immediate period.  

Feedback from the clinics involved


Following the success of the program, according to a follow-up survey completed by 14 practices who took part in the program, 86% said they intend to continue using HotDoc’s system for cervical screening reminders, and 71% said they intend to continue using SMS recalls and reminders for bowel and breast cancer screening.

One clinic described, “With the use of SMS recalls we were more confident that patients were getting their SMS safely with the use of the 3 point ID check and we could check the effectiveness by seeing how many patients open the SMS”.

Another described, “[We will] continue sending SMS for recall and reminders because it’s easier for patients to access and costs less than sending mail”.

One clinic shared, ‘GP practices are, and should continue to be considered, the first-line of defense for cancer prevention and screening. This project has served as a reminder of how important it is to have protocols for things such as cancer screening in place’

When asked what some of the overall benefits of the program were, one clinic explained, “Being able to identify issues with our existing recall system and overhaul them as a result”.

Another shared, “[We] feel more confident about cancer prevention”. A third said, “We learnt that although we felt we did a good job at cancer screenings, there was more we could do to notify our patients”.

Cancer Council’s summary


In their Evaluation Report, Cancer Council outlined, “Overall, practices found the SMS reminder system to be a useful and acceptable way of identifying and contacting patients who were due for cancer screening.

“Although many [clinics] cited difficulties with finding time to adequately engage in the activity, and some felt that they would like to tailor the system to better suit the needs of their practice, there was a strong acknowledgement that participation had forced the practice to recognise and reprioritise the role they can play in increasing cancer screening participation”.

Want to learn more?


To find out more about using HotDoc Recalls and Reminders to improve uptake of cancer screening appointments, and how you can tailor the system to suit the needs of your practice, call 1300 468 362 or contact your Customer Success Manager.