Evaluation of a Text Message–Based COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Program Among Older Patients: Cross-Sectional Study
COVID-19 vaccines are vital tools in the defense against infection and serious disease due to SARS-CoV-2. There are many challenges to implementing mass vaccination campaigns for large, diverse populations from crafting vaccine promotion messages to reaching individuals in a timely and effective manner. During this unprecedented period, with COVID-19 mass vaccination campaigns essential for protecting vulnerable patient populations and attaining herd immunity, health care systems were faced with the dual challenges of vaccine outreach and distribution.
The aim of this cross-sectional study was to assess the effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine text outreach approach for patients aged 65 years and older. Our goal was to determine whether this approach was successful in scheduling patients for COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
We developed SMS text messages using the Tavoca platform. These messages informed patients of their vaccine eligibility and allowed them to indicate their interest in scheduling an appointment via a specific method (email or phone) or indicate their lack of interest in the vaccine. We tracked the status of these messages and how patients responded. Messages were sent to patients aged 65 years and older (N=30,826) at a nonprofit health care system in Washington, DC. Data were collected and examined from January 14 to May 10, 2021. Data were analyzed using multivariate multinomial and binary logistic regression models in SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute Inc).
Approximately 57% of text messages were delivered to patients, but many messages received no response from patients (40%). Additionally, 42.1% (12,978/30,826) of messages were not delivered. Of the patients who expressed interest in the vaccine (2938/30,826, 9.5%), Black or African American patients preferred a phone call rather than an email for scheduling their appointment (odds ratio [OR] 1.69, 95% CI 1.29-2.21) compared to White patients. Patients aged 70-74 years were more likely to schedule an appointment (OR 1.38, 95% CI 1.01-1.89) than those aged 65-69 years, and Black or African American patients were more likely to schedule an appointment (OR 2.90, 95% CI 1.72-4.91) than White patients.
This study provides insights into some advantages and challenges of using a text messaging vaccine outreach for patients aged 65 years and older. Lessons learned from this vaccine campaign underscore the importance of using multiple outreach methods and sharing of patient vaccination status between health systems, along with a patient-centered approach to address vaccine hesitancy and access issues.