A new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that parents are much more likely to bring their children for the second doze of flu shot if they receive written remainders on their phones. The study also revealed that the impact of written messages was nearly double if the reminder contained educational information about the benefits of influenza vaccines.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists at the Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center. The results showed that medical text message remainders not only brought more children to take their second dose of the flu vaccine, but they also brought them earlier than the doctors expected.
The study was conducted during last year’s winter influenza season in three pediatric clinics in northern Manhattan. Children from more than 600 Hispanic families were in need of a second flu shot dose. Nearly 72 percent of the families were convinced that only the first shot was enough to protect their off-springs from catching influenza during that season.
The children’s ages ranged form 6 months to 8 years. The children were assigned in three groups – one group that received reminder-only messages with the due date of the vaccine, a second group that received conventional text message with the place and date of the vaccine, and another group that had besides the conventional message an educational message that revealed the benefits of the second doze of a flu vaccine.
Nearly 73 percent of the children whose parents had received an educational message were brought in for the second shot, as compared to 66.7 percent in the conventional message group and 57.1 percent in the remainder-only message group.
Parents of all children involved in the study had a cell phone and received a remainder message with the due date of the second shot right after their children got the first flu vaccine dose.
“Text message programs like these allow for healthcare 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,”
Melissa Stockwell, MD, lead author of the study and professor of Pediatrics, said.
When asked, parents said they liked the text messages because they both provided important medical info that didn’t require talking to a doctor beforehand and showed that somebody “cared” about their children’s well-being.
About 60 percent of parents said that the text messages were the main reason for bringing their children to get the second flu shot, while nearly 71 percent said that the messages helped them bring their children sooner.
Doctors say that the recommended interval between the two shots is 28 days. If the child doesn’t get the second dose in due time, he/she is left unprotected when the flu virus begins circulating.
Image Source: Think Progress