Authored by a team working at the Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Pediatric Departments at the University of Kansas School of Medicine—Wichita and published in the July/August issue of Telemedicine and e-Health this paper does a great job of adding complexity to the financial and clinical issues surrounding the adoption of Provider/Patient SMS communications (readers will of course know there is already plenty of high quality evidence supporting the urgent need for healthcare practices to adopt 21st centuary technologies for communication).
“Immunization schedules are complicated and difficult for parents to remember. Parents are willing to receive text message reminders. However, it is unknown whether physicians are willing to implement such a system. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of a text messaging reminder system from the physician’s perspective”
> The survey took place over the winter of 2009-2010
> 103 family physicians and pediatricians responded to the survey (a total of 149 were asked)
> Of those who responded 95 (92%) reported they use verbal reminders or appointment cards
> None reported that they use digital (SMS or email) technologies to remind patients
> When asked to “assume they had all of the necessary resources” to use a SMS messaging program, 43% were ‘neutral/undecided’, 31% were ‘unwilling/very unwilling’ and only 27% were “willing/very willing”.
The report concluded that “there is a hesitancy to implement a text message reminder system for childhood vaccine schedules. This may be due to the lack of empirical evidence supporting the use of this technology for health reminders or the lack of willingness to implement another system. Further investigation is needed to determine why few physicians are willing to implement text messaging for immunization reminders“.
In a bid to save the medical researchers of the world another 2 years of work here’s an idea: go back and ask the same group of clinicians the following question:
As of 1 October your funding organisation will only pay for SMS immunization reminders, are you willing to continue paying out of your own pocket for the additional cost of letters, envelopes and postage?
I’d be amazed if they didn’t learn a fundamental lesson from the 15 page responses they’ll get. To me it’s obvious already – the feedback they’ve been getting has everything to do with money and getting paid to do things and nothing at all to do with patient care or increasing vaccination rates.
Whilst thankfully patients are once again doing it Blue Peter style for themselves (with the native diary/reminder apps on their mobiles) it continues to surprise me that we don’t hear public health leaders (who continue to spend millions on the various vaccination awareness campaigns AND deliver billions in savings for governments through reduced care costs for patients who would otherwise fall ill) mandating SMS reminders on the basis that it is the most effective and cost efficient means of personalised patient communication.