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Evaluation of behavioral economic strategies to raise influenza vaccination rates across a health system: Results from a randomized clinical trial.

Szilagyi PG, Casillas A, Duru OK, Ong MK, Vangala S, Tseng CH, Albertin C, Humiston SG, Ross MK, Friedman SR, Evans S, Sloyan M, Bogard JE, Fox CR, Lerner C. Evaluation of behavioral economic strategies to raise influenza vaccination rates across a health system: Results from a randomized clinical trial. Preventive medicine. 2023 May 1; 170:107474.

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Influenza vaccination rates are low. Working with a large US health system, we evaluated three health system-wide interventions using the electronic health record's patient portal to improve influenza vaccination rates. We performed a two-arm RCT with a nested factorial design within the treatment arm, randomizing patients to usual-care control (no portal interventions) or to one or more portal interventions. We included all patients within this health system during the 2020-2021 influenza vaccination season, which overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the patient portal, we simultaneously tested: pre-commitment messages (sent September 2020, asking patients to commit to a vaccination); monthly portal reminders (October - December 2020), direct appointment scheduling (patients could self-schedule influenza vaccination at multiple sites); and pre-appointment reminder messages (sent before scheduled primary care appointments, reminding patients about influenza vaccination). The main outcome measure was receipt of influenza vaccine (10/01/2020-03/31/2021). We randomized 213,773 patients (196,070 adults = 18 years, 17,703 children). Influenza vaccination rates overall were low (39.0%). Vaccination rates for study arms did not differ: Control (38.9%), pre-commitment vs no pre-commitment (39.2%/38.9%), direct appointment scheduling yes/no (39.1%/39.1%), pre-appointment reminders yes/no (39.1%/39.1%); p  >  0.017 for all comparisons (p value cut-off adjusted for multiple comparisons). After adjusting for age, gender, insurance, race, ethnicity, and prior influenza vaccination, none of the interventions increased vaccination rates. We conclude that patient portal interventions to remind patients to receive influenza vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic did not raise influenza immunization rates. More intensive or tailored interventions are needed beyond portal innovations to increase influenza vaccination.

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