The SMARTscreen Trial: a randomised controlled trial investigating the efficacy of a GP-endorsed narrative SMS to increase participation in the Australian National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Anna Wood, Jon D. Emery, Mark Jenkins, Patty Chondros, Tina Campbell, Edweana Wenkart, Clare O’Reilly, Tony Cowie, Ian Dixon, Julie Toner, Hourieh Khalajzadeh, Javiera Martinez Gutierrez, Linda Govan, Gemma Buckle, Jennifer G. McIntosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Increasing participation in the Australian National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) is the most efficient and cost-effective way of reducing mortality associated with colorectal cancer by detecting and treating early-stage disease. Currently, only 44% of Australians aged 50–74 years complete the NBCSP. This efficacy trial aims to test whether this SMS intervention is an effective method for increasing participation in the NBCSP. Furthermore, a process evaluation will explore the barriers and facilitators to sending the SMS from general practice. Methods: We will recruit 20 general practices in the western region of Victoria, Australia to participate in a cluster randomised controlled trial. General practices will be randomly allocated with a 1:1 ratio to either a control or intervention group. Established general practice software will be used to identify patients aged 50 to 60 years old who are due to receive a NBCSP kit in the next month. The SMS intervention includes GP endorsement and links to narrative messages about the benefits of and instructions on how to complete the NBCSP kit. It will be sent from intervention general practices to eligible patients prior to receiving the NBCSP kit. We require 1400 eligible patients to provide 80% power with a two-sided 5% significance level to detect a 10% increase in CRC screening participation in the intervention group compared to the control group. Our primary outcome is the difference in the proportion of eligible patients who completed a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) between the intervention and control group for up to 12 months after the SMS was sent, as recorded in their electronic medical record (EMR). A process evaluation using interview data collected from general practice staff (GP, practice managers, nurses) and patients will explore the feasibility and acceptability of sending and receiving a SMS to prompt completing a NBCSP kit. Discussion: This efficacy trial will provide initial trial evidence of the utility of an SMS narrative intervention to increase participation in the NBCSP. The results will inform decisions about the need for and design of a larger, multi-state trial of this SMS intervention to determine its cost-effectiveness and future implementation. Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12620001020976. Registered on 17 October 2020.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2022


  • Bowel cancer
  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • General practice
  • Health promotion
  • National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Cite this