Compliance with recommended follow-up from the pediatric emergency department (PED) has been shown to be poor. This study evaluated whether a text message reminder to the caregivers after discharge from the PED improved compliance with recommended primary care follow-up.
This was a blinded randomized control trial conducted at a level 1 pediatric trauma center. The intervention was a text message sent to the caregiver within 24 hours of discharge from the PED reminding them to follow up with their primary care doctor. Patients were eligible if the caregiver had text message capability on their cellular phones, they were currently established patients of the organization's Pediatric Faculty Practice, they were discharged home from the PED, and they were referred for follow-up within 1 week of discharge by the pediatric emergency physician. After informed consent, pediatric patients were randomized to either an intervention group (text message appointment reminder) or a control group (standard scheduling with no reminder). The patient, treating physician, and primary care outpatient center were blinded to the group assignment. Enrollment occurred 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.
There were 123 patients enrolled in the study, 62 patients randomized to the control group (standard scheduling) and 61 randomized to the intervention group (text message appointment reminder). Of the patients, 58% were male and 42% were female, with the average age of the patients being 2.2 years (SD, 2.8). The majority of patients were seen in the PED on a weekday, with 24% presenting on a weekend. Only 28% of patients completed the recommended follow-up, and the average time from PED discharge to follow-up was 6 days (SD, 4.2; range, 0–17 days). There was no significant difference in follow-up in the standard treatment group (19/62, 31%) versus the text message intervention group (16/61, 26%) (P = 0.69; rate ratio, 0.94; 95% confidence interval, 0.75–1.18). When we assessed other variables, we found that parents of younger children were more likely to follow up as recommended by the pediatric ED physician. Of those who were compliant with follow-up, we found a mean age of 1.3 years (SD, 2.0; range, 0.8–9.1) versus 2.6 years (SD, 3.0; range, 0.08–15.3) for those who were not compliant with follow-up (P = 0.02).
In this randomized controlled study, a text message reminder to caregivers did not improve compliance for PED patients. However, caregivers of younger children were more likely to complete follow-up as recommended by the PED physician compared with caregivers of older children.