Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tweeting for Health

Recently, we've posted about collecting data from patients via brief text messages (SMS) over their cell phones. Today, we have communication in the opposite direction: sending prompts to patients to encourage certain behavior.
Text-Message Reminders to Improve Sunscreen Use: A Randomized, Controlled Trial Using Electronic Monitoring
April W. Armstrong, MD; Alice J. Watson, MD, MPH; Maryanne Makredes, MD; Jason E. Frangos, MD; Alexandra B. Kimball, MD, MPH; Joseph C. Kvedar, MD
Arch Dermatol. 2009;145(11):1230-1236.
This group sent the local weather report along with a reminder to wear sunscreen to 35 adults via their cell phones. After 6 weeks, sunscreen usage was 56% vs 30% among 35 control subjects (P<.001). The NNT (Number-Needed-to-Text) was a very low 3.8, suggesting that about 1 in 4 subjects responded to the messages. This is remarkably high success rate for such a low cost intervention and suggests that text messages might have broader applicability in health behavior change.

What other areas would benefit from a periodic cell phone reminder?  Where won't it work?

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