Provider Language Choice Associated with Higher Vaccination Rates
Provider recommendation style impacts the length of adolescent vaccine discussions and ultimate vaccination rates.
pediatrician explaining vaccine concerns to patient
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Presenting a vaccine as indicated is a normal communication tactic for providers, but it is not standard for all vaccines. It is less frequently used for the HPV vaccine than for the meningococcal vaccination, for example, which may lower vaccine acceptance and lead to parental confusion when choosing whether to vaccinate their children.

New research finds that using clear, unambiguous language when recommending HPV vaccination increases both vaccine acceptance and conversation efficiency. Published in Vaccine, researchers from Boston Medical Center compared HPV vaccine and meningococcal vaccine acceptance based on the manner in which providers presented them to patients. The indicated style of language (for example, saying “you are due for a vaccine”) was compared to the elective style of language (for example, saying “would you like to vaccinate?”).

The observational study tracked 106 conversations among providers, adolescent patients, and parents between January 2016 and March 2018 across five sites that were participating in DOSE-HPV, a multi-component intervention to improve HPV vaccination rates.

Adolescents were nine times more likely to receive the vaccine when providers used a simple statement in indicated language — as in, “your child is due for vaccines today.” It also resulted in a shorter vaccine discussion, allowing for more time to discuss other health concerns. Neither indicative nor elective styles compromised patient satisfaction with the interaction.

“We are at a time where educating people on vaccines and the process of vaccination is so important for both individual health and the greater public good,” says lead author Rebecca Perkins, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist at Boston Medical Center. “The use of language can make a difference in how likely patients are to accept vaccination and also how much time providers have to address other health concerns.”

“At a time where vaccination hesitancy is at an all-time high, these findings can offer further insight into best approaches for discussing vaccination.” Click To Tweet

Parents of children who need vaccinations look to providers for guidance, and the differences in communication suggests parents may not receive equally clear messaging on all vaccines. Primary care providers face great time pressure, an often-cited reason for not providing certain aspects of care. However, the elective language style of presenting vaccinations led to longer discussions, due to the framing of a question and the patients’ need to probe more to learn about the provider’s view and recommendations.

“Patients look to their provider as a source of education on vaccinations, so as providers, we must approach the discussion in a way that most effectively addresses their goals and prioritizes their most pressing health concerns,” Perkins says. “At a time where vaccination hesitancy is at an all-time high, these findings can offer further insight into best approaches for discussing vaccination, whether it be for HPV or the more recent COVID-19 vaccines.”