Monday, September 13, 2010

How to Address Patient Medication Adherence With Text Messages (SMS)

You can listen to my short ReachMD Mobile Medical Minute commentary about patient medication adherence and SMS (text messages).

Can something as simple as a text message help solve a complicated problem like medication adherence?

Click here to listen to the ReachMD recording (ReachMD registration required).

Do text message reminders improve medication adherence?

So many patients forget to take their medications each day. Would a daily text message reminder improve medication adherence? Let’s take a look at two recent studies that explored this question and see what we discover.

You’re listening to the ReachMD Mobile Medical Minute. I’m Dr. Joseph Kim, founder and editor of

Text messaging, also known as SMS or short message service, has swept the nation because of its ease and simplicity. In fact, texting has replaced alphanumeric paging in many hospital systems. If you could send a short text message and remind your patients to take their pills, would that improve adherence?

Let’s answer that question by looking at a recent study that was published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology: September 2010 - Volume 116 - Issue 3. In this study, 82 women at a Boston Planned Parenthood Clinic were randomized to receive text message reminders about their oral contraceptive pills. After 3 months, the researchers found no difference in medication adherence between the group of women who received text message reminders and those who did not. The authors did note that the lack of benefit may be attributed to the frequent use of alternative reminder systems in the control group.

Let’s now switch gears and look at a study of teenage diabetic patients. According to a very small 3-month pilot study conducted by Dr. Jennifer Dyer, an endocrinologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus Ohio, text message reminders reduced missed insulin does by over 67% in this population. That’s incredible! Perhaps text message reminders are most effective in those who are actively using this type of technology. After all, some report that 50% of teenagers send over 1,500 text messages each month.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing more clinical studies evaluating the impact of text message reminders in patients taking medications. I’m Dr. Joseph Kim, for the ReachMD Mobile Medical Minute — helping you stay smarter than your smartphone. For more news and education, visit ReachMD .com, and for more on mobile medical device, please visit my blog,

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