Because chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma have no known cure, a lifetime of management is necessary to ensure patients get the most out of their everyday lives. Text messaging can play an important role in managing these types of conditions. The benefits of using this communication tool are many and include:
1. Support for self-management
Most patients don't always have immediate, 24 hour access to a nurse or doctor. A big part of their health care management is either self-administered or performed by family members with no medical background. Patients benefit from consistent guidance, and one way to get that is through text messaging. Information such as nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and exercise recommendations can be sent automatically to the patient’s mobile device allowing patients and their family members to receive practical and relevant information on a regular basis.
2. Improved accountability
Managing diabetes or asthma involves discipline and will. Unfortunately, some patients fail to take care of themselves; instead, they often depend on health care professionals for treatment. Text messaging can support self-management by sending reminders and alerts. As a result of these prompts, patients become more involved in their own care and develop a heightened level of personal accountability.
3. Adherence to treatment
Patients often fail to take medication simply because they forget. But research has shown that there’s a marked increase in adherence for asthmatic patients aged 18-45 when they’re sent text messages as reminders. When people are constantly checking their mobile phones, it’s hard to miss a text message, especially one as important as a health care intervention.
4. Reach at-risk populations
According to Scripps Health, high-risk Latinos with type 2 diabetes experienced improvement in glycemic control when a text message-based program for self-management was introduced. In general, at-risk groups with lower socioeconomic status are harder to reach due to the limitations of their access to technology, but mobile phones are both ubiquitous and affordable enough for virtually anyone to have one. Given that text messaging is the number one cell phone activity, it is clearly an effective means to communicate with a diverse groups of patients.
5. Customized Content
More than half of smartphone owners check their mobile devices at least a few times an hour. Furthermore, studies performed by the Pew Research Center found that the typical text message is read within 3 minutes of receipt. It is not hard to imagine that health-related text messages, then, are quickly read and absorbed. Text messaging represents a great opportunity to deliver personalized content – based upon factors such as condition, lifestyle and habits – and send it to the patient at precisely the moment they need it. The delivery of timely and relevant information through a channel that naturally gets attention can make a marked difference in the management of chronic conditions.
Text messaging is a low-cost, yet effective tool to improve ongoing health care management for diabetics and asthmatics. While care must be taken when developing a text message program – to address factors such as regulatory compliance and consent – the positive impact to outcomes is well worth it.
Thinking about a plan of your own?
Text Messaging: Designing a Program That Really Works
If you are reading this, you already know that the benefits of this communication channel are numerous and include boosting effectiveness and efficiency, improving outcomes and enhancing the patient experience. Realizing these benefits, however, is predicated on a well thought-out, end-to-end messaging initiative.