Text messages move the needle on COVID-19 vaccinations

Text messages move the needle on COVID-19 vaccinations

Photo: AVIA Health

As communities across the nation seek new ways to bring COVID-19 vaccination rates up to levels that can more effectively mitigate the spread of variants, they are looking for new and better ways to reach those who are just hesitant, undecided or unaware of how to get vaccinated.

A study of one regional health system’s digital campaign found that sending interactive text messages increased vaccinations rates by more than 4%, in this case by using “psychological ownership” techniques designed to make the message receiver think of the vaccine shot as “theirs.”

In an interview with Healthcare IT News, Sonia Singh, senior vice president of consumerism at AVIA Health, a digital health company, sheds light into this concept and explains the value of digital campaigns. She draws on the company’s work helping promote the study’s interactive text messaging program and other similar digital campaigns.

Q. Please discuss the study featured on Nature.com, examining one regional health system’s digital campaign for vaccinations.

A. I’m excited to see texting capabilities receiving attention for their powerful ability to drive health engagements. We’ve seen similar results as the findings in the study with AVIA members who have implemented text and chat solutions in order to increase their patients’ participation in their health journey.

One of the primary areas where we see the power of texting is through providing ongoing and personalized nudging capabilities, tailoring the messaging to the patient. We can shift the message, language and frequency of text communications to best motivate patients to take action.

Texting also brings a level of urgency we haven’t seen through sending emails and making phone calls. Ninety percent of text messages are read within 90 seconds, drastically increasing the likelihood that the consumer will see, respond and interact with the communication.

Q. What is the value of digital campaigns when it comes to efforts like vaccination?

A. Digital campaigns are foundational to increasing the reach and accessibility of public health initiatives, including vaccination. Ninety-seven percent of adults in the U.S. can send and receive texts through their phone, making it one of the best ways to reach a wide audience. They also can be received and read, even if a consumer doesn’t have access to a smartphone or reliable internet.

The additional advantage with digital campaigns is they can be easily personalized to the audience’s context, including language preferences and incorporating cultural sensitivities in the content.

Q. Why have interactive text messaging and other similar digital campaigns proven effective?

A. Text messaging and chatbots have transformed the way that health systems interact with their patients, and vice versa. Seventy-eight percent of consumers say they want the ability to text with businesses, and consumers are 82% more likely to convert to a patient through texting, rather than calling or filling out a form. The patient demand and the business case for texting are clear.

Health systems are leaning into texting and similar digital campaigns because it allows patients to interact with the health system on their terms. Texts also can provide comprehensive education capabilities, as health systems are using SMS to send relevant snippets of educational content to patients.

Additionally, text and chat digital solutions give health systems the ability to see who has read and responded to their messages, making it easy to provide targeted follow-ups and reminders when necessary.

Text messaging also has proven effective in a variety of other areas, including scheduling and rescheduling appointments, sending appointment reminders and registration information, and filling in gaps in care with preventative care and wellness reminders.

Q. What should healthcare provider organization CIOs and other health IT leaders be doing now to help with the country’s effort to get more people vaccinated?

A. Health system leaders must consider how digital can help them engage with unreached populations. Digital, especially texting, can be a powerful tool to reach and motivate patients to get vaccinated.

Health systems can start by creating digital campaigns focused on educating patients and clarifying any misconceptions a community has about vaccination. Texts and other digital tools can also be personalized based on the target population to ensure the messaging fits in their cultural context and health literacy levels.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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