Patients get meningococcal reminders via SMS

General practices in the Northland region of New Zealand are using text messaging to remind young people to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease.

The region has experienced an outbreak of meningococcal C since July, which is being targeted by NZ health authorities with a free vaccination program for people under 20. It has covered 25,000 people so far.

Local Primary Health Organisations (PHOs), which cover many rural general practices, are sending text messages to enrolled patients to remind them to get the vaccine.

Chris Farrelly, chief executive of Whangarei-based Manaia PHO, said one of the hardest groups to target were school leavers, particularly those in the 17 to 20-year-old age group.

"Meningococcal C can be life-threatening so it's really important we immunise our priority 20 and under age group as quickly as possible,” Mr Farrelly said.

"We're using text messaging alongside campaigns in schools and in the media. Our hardest to reach group are the 17-20 age group that left school."

He said text messages would be a major contact channel for people in this age group.

Manaia PHO and the Bay of Islands-based Te Tai Tokerau PHO are using Vensa Health’s TXT2Remind patient practise text-messaging system. It has been installed in 36 general practices since August.

"We made the decision to roll out TXT2Remind to cover our entire enrolled population just prior to the current outbreak so the platform was already in place to enable an immediate response across the entire population," Mr Farrelly said.

"We've been able to reach people quickly and effectively via text messaging and we expect to see some real improvements as immunisation rates in the region increase."

Vensa Health's system allows primary and secondary health providers to send appointment reminders, lab result notifications, medication reminders, surveys and immunisation reminders by a Shared Care Platform.

The TXT2Remind service is part of the Vensa mHealth+ platform that can be used in a very targeted way to more effectively deliver on the government's priority health targets such as immunisations for under twos, better diabetes and cardiovascular services, smoking cessation and improved access to elective surgery in District Health Board regions.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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