A meta-analysis of 16 randomized controlled trials to evaluate computer-based clinical reminder systems for preventive care in the ambulatory setting

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 1996 Nov-Dec;3(6):399-409. doi: 10.1136/jamia.1996.97084513.


Objective: Computer-based reminder systems have the potential to change physician and patient behaviors and to improve patient outcomes. We performed a meta-analysis of published randomized controlled trials to assess the overall effectiveness of computer-based reminder systems in ambulatory settings directed at preventive care.

Design: Meta-analysis.

Search strategy: Searches of the Medline (1966-1994), Nursing and Allied Health (1982-1994), and Health Planning and Administration (1975-1994) databases identified 16 randomized, controlled trials of computer-based reminder systems in ambulatory settings.

Statistical methods: A weighted mixed effects model regression analysis was used to estimate intervention effects for computer and manual reminder systems for six classes of preventive practices.

Main outcome measure: Adjusted odds ratio for preventive practices.

Results: Computer reminders improved preventive practices compared with the control condition for vaccinations (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 3.09; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.39-4.00), breast cancer screening (OR 1.88; 95% CI 1.44-2.45), colorectal cancer screening (OR 2.25; 95% CI 1.74-2.91), and cardiovascular risk reduction (OR 2.01; 95% CI 1.55-2.61) but not cervical cancer screening (OR 1.15; 95% CI 0.89-1.49) or other preventive care (OR 1.02; 95% CI 0.79-1.32). For all six classes of preventive practices combined the adjusted OR was 1.77 (95% CI 1.38-2.27).

Conclusion: Evidence from randomized controlled studies supports the effectiveness of data-driven computer-based reminder systems to improve prevention services in the ambulatory care setting.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Mass Screening
  • Odds Ratio
  • Preventive Health Services*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reminder Systems*