A combination of patient portal messages and interactive voice response (IVR) calls may provide the most successful method for increasing influenza vaccination rates. The finding comes from a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

To assess the various provider-patient communication routes, researchers assigned 20,000 patients, who had no influenza vaccination 2 months after the start of the 2014-2015 flu season, to either receive (A) a portal message promoting influenza vaccines, (B) an IVR call, both A and B, or usual care. The portal message was delivered via a standard, generic e-mail with no reference to personal information or vaccines. The patient was prompted to login to the secure portal; once logged in patients clicked on a message labeled ‘Brief Flu Questionnaire’ to view. 

A further 10,000 non-portal users were randomized to receive an IVR call or usual care. Each intervention arm was provided information concerning the pneumococcal vaccine as well if the patient was overdue for the vaccine. The researchers calculated frequencies, and examined the link between the intervention groups and completion of pneumococcal vaccine. Influenza vaccination completions after the delivery of each communication were verified by electronic health records (EHR). 

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Results showed that among portal users, 14% (702/5,000) of message and IVR call recipients had received EHR-documented influenza vaccines compared with 13.4% (669/5,000) of message-only recipients, 12.8% (642/5,000) of IVR call-only recipients, and 11.6% (582/5,000) of usual care recipients. Those receiving portal messages and IVR calls were more likely than the usual care group to be vaccinated (ad hoc analysis, using Bonferroni correction: OR 1.29, 97.5% CI 1.13, 1.48). 

With regard to non-portal users, 8.5% of call recipients and 8.6% of usual care recipients had documented influenza vaccines (P=NS); there were no significant improvements in pneumococcal vaccination rate.

The authors concluded that patient portal and call outreach achieved a ‘small but significant’ improvement in vaccination rates.

For more information visit Springer.com.