Automated telephone calls improved completion of fecal occult blood testing

Med Care. 2010 Jul;48(7):604-10. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181dbdce7.


Background: Although colorectal cancer (CRC) prognosis is improved by early diagnosis, screening rates remain low.

Objective: To determine the effect of an automated telephone intervention on completion of fecal occult blood testing (FOBT).

Research design: In this randomized controlled trial conducted at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, a not-for-profit health maintenance organization, 5905 eligible patients aged 51 to 80, at average risk for CRC and due for CRC screening, were randomly assigned to an automated telephone intervention (n = 2943) or usual care (UC; n = 2962). The intervention group received up to three 1-minute automated telephone calls that provided a description and health benefits of FOBT. During the call, patients could request that an FOBT kit be mailed to their home. Those who requested but did not return the cards received an automated reminder call. Cox proportional hazard method was used to determine the independent effect of automated telephone calls on completion of an FOBT, after adjusting for age, sex, and prior CRC screening.

Results: By 6 months after call initiation, 22.5% in the intervention and 16.0% in UC had completed an FOBT. Those in the intervention group were significantly more likely to complete an FOBT (hazard ratio, 1.31; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-1.56) compared with UC. Older patients (aged 71-80 vs. aged 51-60) were also more likely to complete FOBT (hazard ratio, 1.48; 95% confidence interval, 1.07-2.04).

Conclusions: Automated telephone calls increased completion of FOBT. Further research is needed to evaluate automated telephone interventions among diverse populations and in other clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Reminder Systems*
  • Telephone