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.
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.