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Penn Medicine News: Text Messaging Shows Promise in Reaching Unvaccinated Patients

From Penn Medicine News: Automated text messaging was as effective as direct phone calls in getting unvaccinated patients to seek out a COVID-19 shot, according to a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that demonstrated the possibility of lower-cost alternatives to traditional patient outreach. The research was published today in JAMA Network Open. “The take-away is that the text arms of our study were comparable to the phone-only arm, but the text messaging is less resource-intensive since a live call center only needs to talk to those who are already interested instead of making cold calls to everyone on the list,” said the study’s lead author, Shivan Mehta, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine and the associate chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine. Although the researchers had hypothesized that using texting to guide more patients to vaccination might reach more people than phoning them, the numbers were almost identical among all arms of the study, with texting and phone calls all receiving answers from about 3 percent of recipients. But these results still showed that there was not a drop-off in respondents when texting was used. Moreover, not all outreach methods reach the same populations equally, research has shown. Having more options might be a key to access for different populations. “We did not really find any significant difference in response between text and outbound phone calls by sociodemographic variables, but in this trial the response rate was higher among Black patients, lower income, and Medicaid patients, compared to White, higher income, and commercially insured patients,” Mehta said. “I suspect this is because the latter groups responded more to earlier email/patient portal efforts.” Read more at Penn Medicine News.