Periodic Email Prompts to Re-Use an Internet-Delivered Computer-Tailored Lifestyle Program: Influence of Prompt Content and Timing

Francine Schneider*, Hein de Vries, Math Candel, Angelique van de Kar, Liesbeth van Osch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adherence to Internet-delivered lifestyle interventions using multiple tailoring is suboptimal. Therefore, it is essential to invest in proactive strategies, such as periodic email prompts, to boost re-use of the intervention. Objective: This study investigated the influence of content and timing of a single email prompt on re-use of an Internet-delivered computer-tailored (CT) lifestyle program. Methods: A sample of municipality employees was invited to participate in the program. All participants who decided to use the program received an email prompting them to revisit the program. A 2x3 (content x timing) design was used to test manipulations of prompt content and timing. Depending on the study group participants were randomly assigned to, they received either a prompt containing standard content (an invitation to revisit the program), or standard content plus a preview of new content placed on the program website. Participants received this prompt after 2, 4, or 6 weeks. In addition to these 6 experimental conditions, a control condition was included consisting of participants who did not receive an additional email prompt. Clicks on the uniform resource locator (URL) provided in the prompt and log-ins to the CT program were objectively monitored. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine whether prompt content and/or prompt timing predicted clicking on the URL and logging in to the CT program. Results: Of all program users (N=240), 206 participants received a subsequent email prompting them to revisit the program. A total of 53 participants (25.7%) who received a prompt reacted to this prompt by clicking on the URL, and 25 participants (12.1%) actually logged in to the program. There was a main effect of prompt timing; participants receiving an email prompt 2 weeks after their first visit clicked on the URL significantly more often compared with participants that received the prompt after 4 weeks (odds ratio [OR] 3.069, 95% CI 1.392-6.765, P=.005) and after 6 weeks (OR 4.471, 95% CI 1.909-10.471, P=.001). Furthermore, participants who received an email prompt 2 weeks after their first visit logged in to the program significantly more often compared to participants receiving the prompt after 6 weeks (OR 16.356, 95% CI 2.071-129.196, P=.008). A trend was observed with regard to prompt content. Participants receiving a prompt with additional content were more likely to log in to the program compared to participants who received a standard prompt. However, this result was not statistically significant (OR 2.286, 95% CI 0.892-5.856, P=.09). Conclusions: The key findings suggest that boosting revisits to a CT program benefits most from relatively short prompt timing. Furthermore, a preview of new website content may be added to a standard prompt to further increase its effectiveness in persuading people to log in to the program. (J Med Internet Res 2013;15(1):e23) doi: 10.2196/jmir.2151
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Computer tailoring
  • Internet-delivered intervention
  • intervention adherence
  • periodic email prompts
  • prompt content
  • prompt timing


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