An evaluation of a personalised text message reminder compared to a standard text message on postal questionnaire response rates: an embedded randomised controlled trial

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Background: Research outcome data is commonly collected using postal questionnaires; however, poor response can introduce bias and reduce statistical power. Text messaging is simple, cost-effective, and can be customised to the individual. Personalised, reminder text messages may improve response rates.

Methods: A two-arm, parallel group ‘Study within a Trial’ (SWAT) was embedded within the Occupational Therapist Intervention Study (OTIS), a randomised controlled trial of a home assessment for falls prevention in older people. OTIS participants who provided a mobile phone number were randomly allocated (1:1) to receive either a personalised text message (Title, Surname, plus York Trials Unit (YTU) text) or the standard YTU text alone, prior to receiving their four-month post-randomisation follow-up postal questionnaire. The primary outcome measure was the proportion of participants who returned the questionnaire. Secondary outcomes were: time to response, completeness of response, requirement of a reminder letter, and cost-effectiveness. Binary data were compared using logistic regression and time to response by Cox Proportional Hazards regression.

Results: A total of 403 participants were randomised: 201 to the personalised text and 202 to the standard text. Of the 283 participants included in the final analysis, 278 (98.2%) returned their questionnaire; 136 (97.8%) for the personalised text versus 142 (98.6%) for the standard text (adjusted odds ratio 0.64, 95% CI 0.10 to 3.88, p=0.63). The median time to response was nine days in both groups. In total, 271 (97.5%) participants returned a complete questionnaire; 133 (97.8%) in the personalised text versus 138 (97.2%) for the standard text. In total, 21 reminder letters were sent. The additional cost of personalised text messages was £0.04 per participant retained.

Conclusions: Personalised texts were not superior to standard texts in any outcome assessed in our study. Further SWATs are needed to perform a meta-analysis and obtain more evidence.

Registration: ISRCTN22202133; SWAT 35

Keywords: SWAT, Randomised Controlled Trial, personalised, SMS text, postal questionnaire, reminder
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Cochrane A et al.

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