Columbia University Medical Center

Text Messaging: New Tool for Patient Safety

Text messaging may be a new way for healthcare providers to check on patients who have just received vaccines. Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH, and Phil LaRussa, MD, studied both the feasibility of using text messaging to detect adverse effects from the flu vaccine and how well patients and nurses accepted this reporting method. The study was funded by the CDC.

Nurses at six clinics affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and located in a low-income area of New York City handed out enrollment cards to patients and parents after administering flu shots. Those who enrolled were sent text messages 1, 2, 4, and 6 weeks later, asking about their symptoms during the previous week. Sixty-eight percent of the people who were sent messages responded. The vast majority of those who responded, 85 percent, reported no illness in the weeks after vaccination; 12 percent reported mild illness. Of those who sought care, 92 percent had self-reported symptoms that matched what was entered into their electronic health record. In a later survey, 97 percent of the enrollees and 98 percent of the nurses said that they were satisfied with the service; 98 percent of the enrollees said they would sign up again.