Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Improving attendance for cardiovascular risk assessment in Australian general practice: an RCT of a monetary incentive for patients

Nigel Stocks1*, James Allan2, Oliver Frank1, Sue Williams3 and Philip Ryan3

Author Affiliations

1 Discipline of General Practice, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, 5005, Australia

2 Hills Medical Service, Aldgate, 5054, Australia

3 Discipline of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, 5005, Australia

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:54  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-54

Published: 8 June 2012



Preventive health care is an important part of general practice however uptake of activities by patients is variable. Monetary incentives for doctors have been used in the UK and Australia to improve rates of screening and immunisation. Few studies have focussed on incentives for patients to attend preventive health care examinations. Our objective was to investigate the use of a monetary incentive to increase patient attendance with their general practitioner for a cardiovascular risk assessment (CVRA).


A pragmatic RCT was conducted in two Australian general practices. Participating GPs underwent academic detailing for cardiovascular risk assessment. 301 patients aged 40–74, who did not have cardiovascular disease, were independently randomised to receive a letter inviting them to a no cost cardiovascular risk assessment with their GP, or the same letter plus an offer of a $25 shopping voucher if they attended. An audit of patient medical records was also undertaken and a patient questionnaire administered to a sub sample of participants. Our main outcome measure was attendance for cardiovascular risk assessment.


In the RCT, 56/301(18.6%) patients attended for cardiovascular risk assessment, 29/182 (15.9%) in the control group and 27/119 (22.7%) in the intervention group. The estimated difference of 6.8% (95% CI: -2.5% to 16.0%) was not statistically significant, P = 0.15. The audit showed that GPs may underestimate patients’ absolute cardiovascular risk and the questionnaire that mailed invitations from GPs for a CVRA may encourage patients to attend.


A small monetary incentive does not improve attendance for cardiovascular risk assessment. Further research should be undertaken to determine if there are other incentives that may increase attendance for preventive activities in the general practice setting.

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