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Innovative use of text in childhood immunisation

Some interesting news courtesy of iPLATO – who supply patient care messaging systems to over 100 doctors surgeries across the UK.

GP surgeries using iPLATO text messaging have discovered innovative ways of using the system to improve patient compliance to the childhood immunisation schedule. The long periods between booster injections often result in children missing important jabs. Early results have shown that sending targeted text reminders to parents and guardians of children being vaccinated, vastly increases appointment attendance and compliance of these patients.

Stuart Hall, Practice IT Manager from the Vale Medical Centre, Lewisham PCT in South London, who has been using the iPLATO system for the last year, said that his surgery was keen to look at ways of managing patient compliance in this area. ‘We were able to put together a list of children that were overdue for their specific jab and whose parents had not responded to letters sent out previously. Using the iPLATO system, we sent a targeted text message to these parents asking them to call the surgery to book an appointment for their child’s missed vaccination. The result of this text campaign was overwhelmingly positive, with more than half of the parents phoning the surgery in response to the text alert, to schedule a new appointment” comments Hall.


  1. I’m very slightly disturbed reading this article.

    While text reminders are a great way of reminding parents to get their children to have their pre school booster jabs (the only ones I can think of they could be referring to in this instance, since the early jabs that happen at 4, 8 and 12 weeks tend to be booked at the previous immunisation clinic session), the fact that texts are being utilised to prompt non compliant parents (following a letter) to complete their childrens early years vaccinations is frightening.

    What ever happened to visits by Heath Visitors who could fully explain the importance of boosters and give a socio and physical examination of the children within a home environment and book the child in as a part of this process?! If a parent is non compliant on something as important as a booster vaccination, then what does that suggest about the parents attitude to other aspects of that child’s welfare? And why send a text to allow compliance when, surely, a visit as part of a wider Health Visitor programme to find out the reasons why the parents are non compliant would be more beneficial to the child’s welfare?

    Or is it symptomatic that we are becoming part of a society where we can’t put our children’s welfare first without a text prompting us to take action?

    Are we really so busy we can’t remember to mark something so important on a calender and arrange an appointment when the letter drops through the door?

    Great idea, but why does it seem to be being used in lieu of proper face to face surveillance by a supporting health team?


  2. hear hear!!! I couldn’t agree more with loulou.

    Firstly the term “manage patient compliance” wants me to go round to my nearest surgery (if I knew where it was) and throw a brick through the window. Where did all this puke making arse-talk begin???

    Secondly, are the vast majority of parents in this country so fuckin thick and stupid that they need reminding to take care of their own childrens health!? I am so angry that we are becoming a society that needs this kind of service in the first place. It is so commonplace now to put things into place that try to resolve the symptoms rather than look at the underlying issues – i.e. why the hell we have a country full of parents who don’t know how to write in their diaries “8th June – take little Junior to doctors to give him life saving jab”.

    Thirdly, the fact that more and more doctors are becoming simple interfaces to google (see previous post about my visit to doctor who just sat and did a search on google re my symptoms) and don’t have the time/inclination/funding/all three to spend more face to face time with their patients (or should we call them clients these days) really hacks me off.

    Aarrrgggghhhhh – I am off to the pub to drink double my number of allowable units! And don’t anybody dare tell me about the new text service where I text details of my evenings drinking and it replies with a condescending message from the Health Secretary about how naughty I’ve been!!!


  3. If it helps ensure children get the recommended immunisations, whatever their socio-economic background, then it’s a great idea.

  4. But that’s the point Adam … human interaction should come first rather than sending a text!!!

    FFS, I was an on benefits, living in damp squalor, single mum at 19 and didn’t need a reminder to get my son poked with a needle! So if I as a dappy blonde can do it, why not the rest of the populus?!

    Or am I expecting the next generation of PCT punters to come to me to provide a text service telling people “now wash your hands” after they’ve been to the lav?

    The world has gone mad. Too much reliance on someone else to pick up the pieces when you forget or do something wrong.


  5. “LouLou, please wash your hands now with antibacterial wash after using your PC keyboard as 37% of bacteria are picked up from sharing PC’s according to the latest brainwash report from the Government and announced on the BBC. To be removed from this daily reminder, please text ‘I HAVE MY OWN BRAIN to 60300′”.



  6. I suspect what’s going on here is part of the changes to contracts between the Health Service and GPs. The government came up with this idea of rewarding GPs based on them hitting targets – like taking the blood pressure of every patient on a surgery visit. A price has been put on almost anything that can be measured; practices that hit all their targets can earn a lot more, I think up to double what they’d get if they didn’t hit targets. If the GP practice gets extra cash for hitting a high percentage of infants immunised within a time limit, then they are going to do everything they can to get parents to bring the kids in. Unfortunately the good work that health visitors and district nurses do is not so measurable, and funding for them has been squeezed.

  7. I met a someone from iPLATO at a conference recently and they said that text messaging is so popular with patients and GP’s because it’s a democratic means of communication. Across the socio-economic spectrum patients are able to receive healthcare information even if they have an old handset or are on pay-as you go etc. I think you can’t look at texting patients in a cynical way – if it helps in engaging with patients and improves healthcare then it should definitely be embraced.


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