SMS reminders drive up flu appointments

Doctors in the UK may want to take some inspiration from their counterparts stateside, after a report highlighted the effectiveness of using SMS for appointment reminders.

The study, published in The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, saw medical staff at three New York clinics send text messages to parents, reminding them of their children’s influenza vaccine appointments. In total, some 660 children were involved in the randomized trial, reports.

Researchers behind the trial, working from Columbia University Medical Center, found that reminders significantly boosted the number of children who returned to their practitioners for their second vaccine dosages. It emerged that children were 72.7 per cent more likely to make their second appointment on time if their parents had been sent text reminders.

The study also shone light onto what such messages could contain. With the reminders being used for this test containing information on influenza, it showed that parents could not only be reminded by text messages but also educated about the dangers of missing follow-ups.

Melissa Stockwell, assistant professor of population and family health at the Mailman School of Public Health, which was also involved in the study, thinks the benefits of SMS systems are obvious.

She was quoted by as saying: “Text message programs like these allow health care providers to care for their patients even when they are not in front of them in the office, somewhat like a modern-day house call.”