Behavioral interventions to improve population health outreach for hepatitis C screening: randomized clinical trial


The To evaluate whether opt out framing, messaging incorporating behavioral science concepts, or electronic communication increases the uptake of hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening in patients born between 1945 and 1965..


Pragmatic randomized controlled trial.


43 primary care practices from one academic health system (Philadelphia, PA, USA) between April 2019 and May 2020.


Patients born between 1945 and 1965 with no history of screening and at least two primary care visits in the two years before the enrollment period.


This multilevel trial was divided into two studies. Substudy A included 1656 eligible patients of 17 primary care clinicians who were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to a mailed letter about HCV screening (letter only), or a similar letter with a laboratory order for HCV screening (letter+order). Substudy B included the remaining 19 837 eligible patients followed by 417 clinicians. Active electronic patient portal users were randomized 1:5 to receive a mailed letter about HCV screening (letter), or an electronic patient portal message with similar content (patient portal); inactive patient portal users were mailed a letter. In a factorial design, patients in substudy B were also randomized 1:1 to receive standard content (usual care), or content based on principles of social norming, anticipated regret, reciprocity, and commitment (behavioral content).

Main outcome measures

Proportion of patients who completed HCV testing within four months.


21 303 patients were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. Among the 1642 patients in substudy A, 19.2% (95% confidence interval 16.5% to 21.9%) completed screening in the letter only arm and 43.1% (39.7% to 46.4%) in the letter+order arm (P<0.001). Among the 19 661 patients in substudy B, 14.6% (13.9% to 15.3%) completed screening with usual care content and 13.6% (13.0% to 14.3%) with behavioral science content (P=0.06). Among active patient portal users, 17.8% (16.0% to 19.5%) completed screening after receiving a letter and 13.8% (13.1% to 14.5%) after receiving a patient portal message (P<0.001).


Opt out framing and effort reduction by including a signed laboratory order with outreach increased screening for HCV. Behavioral science messaging content did not increase uptake, and mailed letters achieved a greater response rate than patient portal messages.

Auteur(s) : Shivan J Mehta & al.