Is good health a text away?

November 1, 2012

Sharon Schreiber

Let's face it: Most of us have our mobile phones within arm's reach at all times. We check our phones first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed. Our smartphone screen is a personal, powerful, and preferred communication channel.

At the top of the list of effective ways to communicate in today's mobile world is text messaging.

BabyCenter and Nielsen conducted a joint study with thousands of moms and found texting to be the number one activity they do on their mobile devices. And 93 percent of moms said they manage the health and well being of their entire family. Nielsen has also reported that 97 percent of text messages are read within three minutes. But can a text message inspire health and improve outcomes? The answer is yes.

I know this firsthand. My son suffered a concussion while playing lacrosse. After he got hit, he knew he didn't feel quite right, but he had no idea what was going on "“ so he headed back on the field. Lucky for him, his teammate thought he had a concussion and wouldn't let him play.

This incident inspired me to work with Dr. Vishal Mehta, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon, and the national STOP Sports Injuries campaign to create an innovative public service program to educate parents, athletes, and coaches about the signs and symptoms of concussions and sports-related injuries.

As Dr. Mehta likes to say, when you hand athletes pieces of paper to inform them about concussions, the paper ends up in the trash. So, we turned to timely text messaging to educate and inspire health in a positive way, and it worked. Mom's Team, a popular sports health blog for parents, calls the BeUnstoppable campaign "kid tested, mom approved."

The creation of a healthcare texting program is an effective way to deliver a myriad of helpful and invaluable health information. Whether it is post surgical recovery instructions delivered at the right time points, disease prevention and management, well-child information for moms on-the-go, or an inspirational message on how to eat healthy or reduce stress, this simple tool can be harnessed to make a difference.

Mobile messages can sustain positive, healthy behaviors, according to Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Columbia universities. There are mobile health campaigns for everything from stop smoking programs to those that generate timely reminders such as "be sure to get your mammogram" and "don't forget your flu shot."

And they work:

  • Heavy smokers are twice as likely to quit while receiving texts
  • Texts improve medication compliance in patients with chronic disease
  • Among underserved populations, significantly more children receive flu shots when parents receive text reminders

Text messaging programs can change people's behaviors. These programs foster positive outcomes because texting is such a personalized way to deliver information, especially when generated by your trusted physician. Mobile communications is a user-friendly, low-cost option to instantly deliver personal and actionable messages into real-life situations. It's a way to connect healthcare providers and patients and empower them to live healthier lives. With moms referring to smartphones as the "remote control for their lives," a healthy text message could be just the right prescription.

For more, Text Messaging in Health Care provides a summary of medical research by Dr. Vishal Mehta on the impact of text messaging to improve outcomes and change behavior.

Sharon K. Schreiber, CEO of BrandWeavers ®, provides experienced brand leadership and collaborative marketing opportunities for physician groups, corporations focused on employee health, and wellness community outreach ventures. Schreiber is also a principal at Healthy-TXT, a physician-designed platform that delivers relevant and valuable content to subscribers, improving patient satisfaction, providing patient education on treatment regimens and healthy lifestyle, and effecting positive behavioral change.

Originally published Nov 1, 2012 10:00:21 AM.