Objective: To explore women's perspectives on the acceptability and content of reminder letters from the family physician for Papanicolaou (Pap) test screening and the effect of reminder letters on compliance with screening recommendations.
Methods: A population-based survey was conducted in 23 Family Health Networks and Primary Care Networks participating in a demonstration project to increase the delivery of preventive services in Ontario. Questionnaires were mailed to randomly selected women aged 35 to 69 years who had received a reminder letter for a Pap test from their family physician within the previous six months. Two focus groups were conducted with a volunteer sample of respondents.
Results: The usable response rate was 54.3% (406/748). Two-thirds (65.8%, 267/406) of women who completed the survey recalled receiving the reminder letter. Overall, 52.3% (212/405) reported having a Pap test in the past six months. Among women who recalled the reminder letter and scheduled or had a Pap test, 71.4% (125/175) reported that the letter influenced their decision to be screened. The majority of respondents (80.8%, 328/406) wanted to continue to receive reminder letters for Pap tests from their physician, and 34.5% (140/406) wanted to receive additional information about cervical screening. Focus group interviews indicated that women who have had a Pap test may still be unsure about screening recommendations, what the test detects, and the rationale for follow-up procedures.
Conclusions: Reminder letters in family practice were viewed as useful and influenced women's decisions to undergo Pap test screening. Women who have had a Pap test may still need additional information about the test.