Healthcare professionals do not always provide care that is recommended or that reflects the latest research, partly because of information overload or inaccessibility. Reminders may help doctors overcome these problems by reminding them about important information or providing advice, in a more accessible and relevant format, at a particularly appropriate time. For example, when a doctor sees a patient for his annual check-up, he receives the patient's chart with a reminder section detailing the screening tests that are due that year, such as colorectal cancer screening.
This review found 32 studies that evaluated the effects of reminders, automatically generated through a computer system but delivered on paper to healthcare professionals, compared to usual care. The studies examined reminders to order screening tests, to provide vaccinations, to prescribe specific medications, or to discuss issues with patients. The reminders improved professional practices by 7% (median). When reminders provided space for the healthcare professional to enter a response and provided an explanation for the reminder, the effect was greater than when these features were not present. Reminders to provide vaccinations were the most effective, while reminders to discuss issues with patients were the least effective.