MONDAY, Feb. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A centralized statewide reminder system for immunizations may be a more reliable way to increase overall vaccination rates than reminders from the doctor's office, new research suggests.
Efforts to get primary care physicians to reach out to parents with timely reminders about childhood vaccinations haven't worked very well, the study authors noted. Less than one-fifth of doctors' offices willingly participate in some kind of notification system, according to background information in the study.
The new study involved mail and/or phone contact with the parents of more than 18,000 children. The children were all between 19 months and 35 months old and were from 15 counties in Colorado.
The centralized notification system aimed to contact parents of roughly half the children via some combination of autodial calls or mail reminders. Family doctor offices were offered both training and financial compensation for reaching out to the other half.
In the end, the centralized system was more effective at making contact with parents, reaching 87 percent of their target group at least once. By contrast, only two doctors' offices chose to even try, with an overall reach of less than 1 percent of the doctor-based target group.
The result was a moderate uptick in the percentage of children getting their needed immunizations, according to the report published in the Feb. 23 online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.
"Our findings and those of previous studies support consideration of a [centralized notification system] compared with a [doctor-based] reminder/recall approach to increase immunization rates during the preschool years," the study authors reported.
However, while vaccination rates did go up among those contacted by the centralized notification system, the huge disparity in effort didn't translate into a big difference in actual vaccination rates, according to Dr. Allison Kempe, of Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, and colleagues.
Specifically, about 27 percent of those contacted by the centralized notification system got at least one timely vaccination, compared with about 22 percent of those contacted by the doctors' offices. The study also found that nearly 13 percent of the centralized notification system group got all their needed vaccines, compared with roughly 9 percent among the doctor-contact group.
Still, the centralized system was deemed to be more effective and cheaper than the doctor-based system, Kempe and colleagues said in a journal news release. And, they concluded, "with minimal contributions from each, substantial cost savings should be realized from a societal perspective."
There's more on childhood vaccinations at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.