Electronic Reminders Increase HPV Vaccination Rates

June 9, 2015
Rachel Lutz

Young women are up to 10 times more likely to complete the human papillomavirus vaccine series when their health care providers are alerted electronically that patients are due for a shot.

Young women are up to 10 times more likely to complete the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series when their health care providers are alerted electronically that patients are due for a shot.

In a study published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, researchers examined the initiation and completion of the HPV vaccine series among women aged 9 to 26 years in 2 community-based networks with electronic health record (EHR) systems.

They compared HPV vaccination rates between 6019 patients whose clinics had electronic prompts in place during office visits and 9096 patients whose clinics did not.

Younger patients aged 9 to 18 years in clinics using an EHR system with prompts were nearly 3 times more likely to start the HPV vaccine series and 10 times more likely to complete it than their peers in the unprompted cohort. Similarly, those aged 19 to 26 years were 6 times more likely to start the vaccine and 8 times more likely to complete the series than their unprompted peers.

These rates were significantly higher for young African-American women—a demographic that “often includes a group of patients that typically don’t go to the doctor as often as other groups, unless they are ill,” explained lead study author Mack Ruffin IV, MD, MPH, in a press release.

“We found that simply alerting patients and providers during an office appointment increased uptake and completion of the HPV vaccine series,” Dr. Ruffin continued. “Our findings suggest that these prompts through the EHR may be a valuable tool in encouraging more people to protect themselves from cancer.”

For HPV vaccination to make a real difference in cervical cancer rates, 80% of the population would need to not only start, but also complete the series, Dr. Ruffin explained.

“We’re a long way away from achieving the HPV vaccination rates we’d like to see, but our findings potentially identify another valuable step in helping us get closer to our goal,” he noted.