Step 1: Establish a cancer screening reminder workflow in your practice

steps This section covers the following steps:

Step 1.1 Ensure your whole team understands the difference between recall and reminders
Step 1.2 Review the sample cancer screening recall and reminder workflow and modify it, as required, to meet your practice’s needs and priorities

Step 1.1 Ensure your whole team understands the difference between recall and reminders

While the terms recall and reminder are sometimes used interchangeably, understanding the differences between them is important.

Reminders ‘remind’ a patient that a recommended investigation (e.g. cervical screening) or procedure (e.g. immunisation) is due to be performed. They are proactive and part of preventive care.4

Note: While there is no legal requirement to send reminders, there is strong evidence that reminders improve patient compliance with preventative health actions, such as cancer screening1,5 and immunisation.6

Recalls are a proactive follow-up to a preventative or clinical activity. Recalls occur when it is crucial for a patient to attend the practice (e.g. after an abnormal test result).2

Module 3 focuses on your cancer screening reminder system, but you may also choose to review your recall system at this time. The steps below provide points to consider when reviewing your recall system.2,4 

  • Define the roles of GPs and other clinic staff.
  • Remember, accurate data entry is essential for useful information. Ensure adequate systems, policies and procedures that define data labels and processes.
  • Have a planning session with GPs and staff to evaluate previous systems against the criteria of being effective, fail-safe and sustainable. Use the findings to develop an improved system.
  • Consider software that integrates with your practice management system and allows for more sophisticated on-screen prompts.


Ensure Module 2 data cleaning is complete prior to implementing the workflow

In order to avoid sending cancer screening reminders to patients who should not receive them, it is important to complete the data cleaning activities outlined in Module 2 prior to implementing the cancer screening recall and reminder workflow.

Knowledge check

Knowledge check

Data audits can identify patients with a screening result (e.g. iFOBT, mammogram or Cervical Screening Test), but they cannot read the results.

It is important to manage abnormal results appropriately through your recall system.

Step 1.2 Review the sample cancer screening recall and reminder workflow and modify it, as required, to meet your practice’s needs and priorities

Here you will find a sample workflow for the delivery of a high quality cancer screening reminder system. The sample workflow systematises the following:

  • Family history taking.
  • The provision of appropriate reminders to those due and overdue for screening.
  • Integration of screening with activities that support improved patient care and practice business outcomes, such as General Practice Management Plans (GPMP), 715 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments, 40 to 49 and 45 to 49-year-old health assessments, and health assessments for people with intellectual disability.
  • When and how to contact patients, depending on their screening status. 

Given people who have previously screened are more likely to screen in the future than those who have never screened7,8  the workflow suggests:

  • using letters or SMS to remind existing screeners
  • using phone calls to engage new screeners and those who have never screened (if practice capacity permits). 

All practices are different, with different patient profiles and levels of organisational capacity. 

This workflow should be used as a template that your team modifies to suit your needs, and the needs of your patients.  

Steps 2 to 8 of Module 3 support your practice to think through and undertake the steps necessary to effectively implement your cancer screening reminder workflow.

Practice point

Practice point

The Module 3 reminder workflow is for asymptomatic patients who are eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, BreastScreen Australia and Cervical Screening Tests.

Patients requiring clinical surveillance due to familial or clinical risk are not covered by the Module 3 workflow.

Cancer screening workflow: Search functions

Find a full set of PenCS CAT ‘recipes’ for undertaking the search functions required to implement the sample cancer screening workflow.

Links to cancer screening workflow search functions in other software will be shared as they become available.

Cancer screening workflow: Software functions

Here you will find links to instructions for the software functions your practice will need to undertake to implement your cancer screening reminder workflow.

  Create mail merges from patient lists Create bulk SMS from patient lists Record correspondence attempts (letter, phone or SMS) in patient file Update cancer screening information in patients files (from family history checklists/tools and/or cancer registry data) Create cancer screening alerts to support effective point of care
Best Practice Send Health Awareness Communications Send clinical reminders

Add and review contact notes

Note: Best Practice automatically creates a contact note in patient files when bulk SMS are send 

Social and family history Enabling preventive health notifications
Genie Merged letters SMS setup Typically recorded in the ‘Action Details’ section Record as per normal clinical information Flagging of patient record
Medical Director Mail merge Sending SMS reminders Editing a patient’s details from within their record

Adding cervical screening results via the clinical front screen

Note: The only way to add bowel and breast family history is via the ‘Past History’ tab in the patient dashboard. See Adding, Editing and Deleting History Items for more information

Cervical screening

For bowel and breast:
Prompt/preventative health criteria  

ZedMed Software help Office templates

Management reports

Appointment report

SMS functions within ZedMed

SMS appointment reminders