Background: Reminders have been demonstrated to be effective in encouraging childhood immunizations and increasing clinic attendance rates. Patient reminders also are a critical component of meaningful use criteria for federal efforts to expand the use of electronic health records (EHRs). Although email and cell phone use is commonplace, practices continue to rely primary upon mailed or telephone-based reminders for appointments.
Objectives: To assist practices in learning their patients' preferences for immunization and appointment reminders.
Methods: A convenience sample of 5 immunization provider sites in Michigan (3 private pediatric practices and 2 public local health departments) assessed immunization and appointment reminder preferences. Practice personnel distributed a survey during patient registration or check-out over a 1-month period. Respondents indicated whether they would be interested in receiving immunization and appointment reminders through email, text message, or telephone call. Primary outcomes were the proportion of respondents with reminder preferences using one or more method of automated reminder, including SMS text message, email, or telephone.
Results: A total of 1,275 surveys were collected from five provider sites, with 53% from private practices and 47% from health departments. Most respondents (58%) were 18-40 years; patients were primarily being seen for immunizations (37%), sick visits (22%), or well visits (20%). Overall, respondents indicated interest in receiving reminders via telephone (59%), email (45%), or text messages (28%); one-third preferred to receive reminders by only email or text. Compared to older respondents, younger respondents tended to prefer text (34% vs. 11%) or email reminders (40% vs. 36%), whereas older respondents more frequently indicated telephone-based reminders (69% vs. 53%).
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of patients prefer to receive reminders only by email or text message. Consistent with meaningful use criteria for EHRs, practices should explore the capacity of their practice management systems to collect cell phone numbers and email addresses, and then solicit patient reminder preferences accordingly.