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Sunday, September 05, 2021

Vaccine Nudging Tested

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST:  (from Kowledge@Wharton) 

Wharton’s Mitesh Patel speaks with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM about how text-based nudges increase vaccination rates.

The best way to get patients to take their vaccinations is to send text message reminders that a shot has been “reserved” for them at their upcoming doctor’s appointment, according to a study from Wharton and Penn Medicine.

Personalized messages using the word “reserved” was enough to boost vaccination rates by 11% in the mega-study of more than 47,000 patients.

“It turns out one of the most simple, straightforward messages worked the best. Instead of telling people that the vaccine was available for them, we said it was ‘reserved for you,’” said Mitesh Patel, professor of health care management at Wharton and former director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, which is the world’s first behavioral design team embedded in a health care system. He is also national lead for behavioral insights at Ascension Health.

Patel joined scientists from Penn, Harvard, Yale, and several other universities to collaborate with Penn Medicine and Geisinger Health on the mega-study. The researchers developed 19 different text messaging protocols to discover which ones were most effective at nudging participants to get their shots. The messages ran the gamut — from jokes to short videos to allowing participants to dedicate their shots with a loved one’s initials — but nothing worked as well as the reservation reminder.

Although the study was designed to boost uptake of the flu vaccine, the researchers said the method can be easily adapted to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations.

During the 2019–2020 flu season, less than half the U.S. population took the influenza vaccine and an estimated 35,000 people died from the virus. By comparison, COVID-19 has killed more than 635,000 Americans since it first appeared early last year. About 74% of Americans eligible for the vaccine have taken at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The most important takeaway is that the way that we communicate the vaccine to people is going to have a huge impact on whether or not they’re going to be motivated to get it, and that really subtle changes can have a big impact,” Patel said during an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast above.) “Now that we have the evidence on what works and what doesn’t, we can actually leverage this to help motivate more people to get vaccinated quickly.”  ... ' 

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