Automated Text Message Reminders Improve Radiation Therapy Compliance

Jun Tan, Alana Christie, Steven K. Montalvo, Catherine Wallace, Yulong Yan, Michael Folkerts, Alicia Yingling, David Sher, Hak Choy, Steve Jiang, Kenneth D. Westover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: Protraction of radiation therapy courses can lead to lower cancer control and cancer-specific survival rates. The requirement for daily, consecutive radiation treatments coupled with the complexities of multimodality cancer care and quality assurance can occasionally lead to missed patient appointments or clinical inefficiency. To determine whether an automated text messaging (short message service [SMs]) platform could improve patient compliance with scheduled radiation therapy delivery, we created an automated SMS platform to send daily reminders of radiation therapy appointments. Methods and Materials: An automated SMS text messaging program was used from July 2016 to January 2017 to deliver daily appointment time reminders to patients on an elective basis. Automated text messages were sent 2 hours before treatment appointments with appointment-specific information. We analyzed for compliance with radiation therapy appointments for patients who elected to receive SMS reminders versus those who did not. Results: Multivariate analysis of >37,000 encounters involving ∼3400 patients demonstrated that of the factors considered, nonreceipt of SMS appointment reminders had a strong association with 15- to 60-minute tardiness (odds ratio [OR], 1.25; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.13-1.38; P <.0001), >60-minute tardiness (OR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.34-1.82; P <.0001) and no-shows (OR, 6.77; 95% CI, 5.45-8.41; P <.0001). Other demographic factors associated with decreased compliance included being early in a radiation therapy course, having an appointment earlier in the day, younger age, and male sex. Receipt of an SMS message did not correlate with overall treatment package time. Conclusions: Receipt of text messages correlates with compliance for radiation therapy appointments. Prospective randomized trials would be required to determine conclusively whether SMS is an effective intervention for improving compliance in populations at risk for being late to or missing radiation therapy appointments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1045-1052
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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