When we think of texting, we tend to envision a purely
social medium: first to come to mind is often the image
of teenagers firing off messages bereft with acronyms.
While texting is an enormously popular social medium
and has played a key role in shaping communication,
it plays other significant roles in our lives. In fact,
texting may have a variety of surprising implications
for the world of health and medicine.
A major way texting may be applied to the health sphere
is as a means of reminding people to take their medication.
A 2012 study in which participants received text message
reminders to take their medication over nine months
demonstrated that the reminder texts bred significantly
higher chronic adherence than that of the control group.
In other words, the reminder texts were highly effective
both at causing people to take their medication and
at creating long-term habits of medication adherence.
Through the use of text messaging, forgetting to take
medication could become a thing of the past. The health
complications that accompany poor medication adherence
can be very serious, making this application of texting
Text message reminders' benefit to health may not just
stop at medicine. The success of text message reminders
for medication suggests that texting might also be an
effective vehicle for other reminders; text messaging
could also be used to remind people to act on their
fitness regimens, to attend medical appointments, and
to schedule routine health screenings.
The health benefits of text message reminders do not
stop at reminding subscribers to perform a certain task;
texting may also be an effective way to cause people
to give up certain habits. Programs like Text2Quit aid
those who are trying to quit smoking by texting them
reminders and encouraging messages, as well as allowing
them to text keywords when they experience cravings
to receive texts with resources that will help them
fight these feelings.
While no program to quit smoking will boast perfect
success rates due to the intense and complicated nature
of addiction and recovery, texting-based programs may
be more effective than more traditional methods. A 2012
study of the efficacy of Text2Quit demonstrated that
those using Text2Quit were twice as likely to quit smoking
than those using self-help materials. Additionally,
participants reported preferring the text messaging
program to programs that involve counseling via phone
Texting can not only be applied to benefit one's own
health, but the health of others. One way texting may
be applied to the sphere of health and medicine is through
targeted outreach and crowdsourcing; instead of sending
texts to aid individuals, health-related projects in
need of participants can use texting to seek individuals
to aid them.
One way texting has been used to crowdsource for the
benefit of medicine is to gather study participants.
Numerous researchers run studies and experiments, for
many of which they must gather volunteers. While using
text messaging to find prospective study participants
may not always yield a totally random sample, it can
still be a sound means by which to collect a pool of
subjects for specific populations, such as teenagers.
Many such studies yield findings that can have important
implications for the world of medicine, health, and
SMS as a means of crowdsourcing might also be applied
in more serious medical situations. One instance of
this is the use of texting to assemble transplant teams.
Organ transplants entail a relatively complicated process
that usually involves numerous prospective donors and
multiple teams that must collectively find, select,
acquire, transport, and transplant an organ. As a fast
and effective means of contacting people, texting may
be a helpful way to locate the necessary people to assemble
a transplant team so that important transplants may
occur as efficiently as possible.
These applications of texting are certainly a boon
to the sphere of health and medicine, which constantly
grows more efficient and effective as we develop technology
and find new uses for it. With so many new uses for
SMS arising in the medical community, texting promises
to provide many innovative and useful new programs to
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.