SMARTScreen: Utilisation of an SMS intervention with evocative videos sent to GP patients who are overdue in their bowel cancer screening

Project Details

The Australian National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) is a national screening program that sends out a free, at-home immunochemical faecal occult blood test  biennially to everyone between 50 and 74 years of age. Despite the ease of access, the current uptake is low (44%), especially in younger age groups (only 34% of 50–60-year-old participants complete the screening test). Increasing participation in the NBCSP is an Australian Government health priority as early detection and treatment of bowel cancer has the potential to save thousands of lives and millions of dollars. SMARTscreen was a cluster randomised controlled trial to test the efficacy of sending an SMS on NBCSP participation. The SMARTscreen intervention was a personalised SMS that included an endorsement message about the NBCSP from the patient’s general practice, motivational videos and easy-to-follow instructional videos with detailed information about how to do the kit. The SMS was sent to patients from their general practice just before their NBCSP kit was due to be sent. The intervention was efficacious increasing screening by 16.5% (95% confidence interval 2.02 to 30.9%; p=0.03), and importantly sending and receiving the SMS combination was highly acceptable to patients and general practice staff, and feasible to incorporate into general practice.


Associate Professor Jennifer McIntosh, The Centre of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, and the Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne

Professor Jon Emery, Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne

Anna Wood, Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Patty Chondros, Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne


Dr Tina Campbell, Director, Healthily Pty Ltd

Ms. Edweana Wenkart, Director, Pen CS

Ms. Linda Govan, Western Victoria Primary Health Network

Mr. Ian Dixon, Consumer Advocate

Ms. Julie Toner, Consumer Advocate


Victorian Cancer Agency grant.

Research Outcomes

The SMARTscreen SMS prompt led to a 16.5% increase in the uptake of the faecal occult blood test to screen for bowel cancer in 50-60-year-old general practice patients.  The findings informed the development and funding of the larger SMARTERscreen trial.

Research Group

Cancer in Primary Care

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cancer in Medicine

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

General Practice and Primary Care

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