Objective: To improve the computer-generated preventive services patient reminder letter used by a department of family medicine at a medical university in South Carolina.
Design: A qualitative method chosen because of its demonstrated efficacy in generating in-depth attitude and opinion data was used for 12 focus groups (111 participants) in which participants were asked to evaluate the reminder letter and other preventive services reminder materials. Information from these groups was used to design a revised patient reminder system that was tested in six additional focus groups (50 participants).
Setting: University-based family medicine center.
Participants: Adults 19 years of age or older of whom approximately one half were selected from a random sample of family medicine center patients and the remainder from volunteers recruited from the general community by newspaper advertisement.
Main outcome measures: Participants' perceptions and attitudes about the reminder letter and other materials as well as suggestions for improving the preventive services reminder system.
Results: The revised patient reminder materials resulted in a warmer, more personal letter sent to patients at the time of their birthdays in an envelope containing a prevention message. A leaflet describing the rationale for preventive services and answering common questions about prevention and a booklet describing the preventive services available at the family medicine center were also developed.
Conclusion: This study illustrated the benefits of incorporating patients' perspectives in the design of preventive services reminders.