A series of text reminders to complete an at-home fecal immunochemical test (FIT) increased screening completion rates by nearly 20%, researchers reported in study findings published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The results are particularly encouraging because almost 90% of the participants were Black, a population that typically has low screening adherence rates but higher incidence of and mortality from colorectal cancer.

Researchers mailed 440 patients free, at-home FIT kits and randomized the sample 1:1 to receive either a single text alert reminder to complete the screening (control group) or a series of up to three text alert reminders (intervention group). Only 2.3% of people in the control group completed the screening test at the end of 12 weeks, but the completion rate increased to 19.6% in the intervention group.

“The patient population for this study is a historically underserved population: 50% are on Medicaid and many are uninsured. For a variety of reasons, they’re not getting screened for colorectal cancer,” the researchers said. Participants’ mean age was 57.4 years, 63.4% were women, 87.7% were Black, 19.1% were uninsured, and 49.6% were Medicaid beneficiaries.

The researchers also cited the intervention’s affordability: the total cost to distribute the tests to patients and automate the text reminders was just $200.