How can text messages encourage people to see a doctor? February 22, 2016 Joseph Boskovski, Oliver J.
If you haven’t seen a doctor in a long time, the thought of picking up the phone to schedule an appointment can be terrifying. Sometimes it’s easier to adopt an “out of sight out of mind” mentality.
However, the people who haven’t seen a doctor in years are the ones most likely to benefit from a check-up. In New Orleans, while thousands of low-income and uninsured people now have access to free check-ups through the Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection (GNOCHC), a Medicaid waiver program, only about half of covered patients had utilized the service in the past 24 months.
The City of New Orleans and 504HealthNet (a non-profit member association of New Orleans health clinics serving the poor and uninsured) set out to find out why and how take-up rates could be improved. In a project supported by Living Cities’ City Accelerator program, the City of New Orleans and 504HealthNet engaged patients through phone interviews, cohort convenings, and a day-long “design day” to understand their challenges in accessing care and to generate ideas for improving health care utilization. It became clear that take-up would improve with more direct communication regarding the free health care available in a network of clinics established after Hurricane Katrina when the iconic Charity Hospital shut its doors for good.
With this feedback in mind, the New Orleans team asked the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) to design and conduct an experiment to test different messages that encourage recipients to schedule a free check-up. This trial was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative and is part of the City’s NOLAlytics initiative, aimed at leveraging data science to improve City services in New Orleans.