Does the Message Matter? Enhancing Patient Adherence through Persuasive Messages

Author: Muhammad F. Walji, MS (2006)

Primary Advisor: Jiajie Zhang, PhD

Committee Members: Elmer Bernstam, MD, MSE; Todd Johnson, PhD; Craig Johnson, PhD; Kathy Johnson-Throop, PhD

PhD Thesis, The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.

 
To improve health and reduce costs, we need to encourage patients to make better healthcare decisions. Many informatics interventions are aimed at improving health outcomes by influencing patient behavior. However, we know little about how the content of a message in these interventions can influence a health-related decision. In this research we formulate a conceptual model to help explain and guide the design of “persuasive messages”, those which can change and influence patient behavior. We apply the conceptual model to design persuasive appointment reminder messages using human centered design principles. Finally, we empirically test our hypotheses in a randomized controlled trial in order to determine the effectiveness of persuasive appointment reminders to reduce the number of missed appointments in a sample of 1016 subjects in a community health center. The results of the study confirm that reminder messages are effective in reducing missed appointment compared with no reminders (p=0.028). Further, reminder messages that incorporate heuristic cues such as authority, commitment, liking, and scarcity are more effective than reminder messages without such cues (p=0.006). However, the addition of systematic arguments or reasons for attending appointments have no effect on appointment adherence (p=0.646). The results of this research suggest that the content of reminder messages may be an important factor in helping to reduce missed appointments.