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OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to assess whether timing of short messaging service (SMS) reminders improved postal questionnaire return rates from participants in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: A Study Within A Trial (SWAT) embedded in a multicenter RCT evaluating three treatments for the frozen shoulder. Participants who provided a mobile telephone number were randomized to either prenotification SMS on the day of the questionnaire mail-out or postnotification SMS 4 days after questionnaire mail-out for the 3-month follow-up. The primary outcome was the proportion of participants who returned a valid questionnaire. A systematic review was undertaken to identify other embedded trials to perform a meta-analysis. RESULTS: Of the 269 participants, 122/135 (90.4%) returned a valid questionnaire in the prenotification arm and 119/134 (88.8%) in the postnotification arm (difference of -1.6%; 95% CI of difference: -8.9%, 5.7%). There was no difference in time to response (HR = 1.04; 95% CI: 0.80 to 1.34) or need for additional reminders (OR = 0.71; 95% CI: 0.43 to 1.17). Meta-analysis of two RCTs showed no difference in response rates between prenotification and postnotification reminders (OR = 0.78 95% CI: 0.42 to 1.45). CONCLUSION: Timing of SMS reminders did not improve response rates and time to response or affect the need for additional reminders.

Original publication




Journal article


J clin epidemiol

Publication Date





70 - 77


Meta-analyses, Randomized controlled trial, Retention, SMS, Study Within A Trial, Text message