Text messaging is considered a lethal distraction for drivers and is also cursed for dehumanizing personal interactions, but for doctors treating patients with chronic diseases, it can prove to be a precious tool, says an expert.
"For better or worse, this technology is here, and sending a text to a patient's cell phone about an upcoming appointment or a test or simply to remind them to take their meds is a great example of how we can harness new communication technology for a greater good," said Johns Hopkins Children's Center paediatrician Delphine Robotham.
Robotham said that research has shown that up to half of patients may fail to take their daily medication properly, with forgetting being a top reason for non-adherence, so at least in some cases, a text reminder may be all that a patient needs.
Robotham noted several recent studies have looked at use of SMS (short message service or text messaging) in a medical context.
For example, one study involving children with diabetes showed improved blood glucose testing rates. These children were also more likely to share their blood glucose test readings with their doctor's office.
In another study, patients on immunosuppressive drugs after a liver transplant had improved medication adherence. The liver study detected measurable clinical benefits from text-messaging:
Acute liver rejection episodes dropped dramatically as a result of better medication adherence.
Robotham said that chronic conditions that require daily medication, like HIV, asthma and TB, or daily testing, like diabetes, are great candidates for 'SMS therapy.'