SMS reminders are not only good news for doctors, but a boon for patients as well. SMS reminders are proving themselves extremely efficient as medical assistants on-the-go. They can help manage your appointments, cancellations, informing patients about your clinic timings, scheduling seminars, etc.

In today’s world, mobile text messages are a universally recognized means of communication. The worldwide penetration of the technology is rising each day. Developing countries are always trying to find effective yet cheaper means to improvise their health sector. And to achieve these goal, SMS reminders will prove to be of utmost use.

15 great advantages of SMS reminders

  1. Mobiles are used commonly even in developing  countries, even by those in low income strata of society due to availability at a minimal cost.
  2. They provide reliable, periodic and quick delivery of healthcare reminders like blood tests, follow ups, etc.
  3. Decrease intrusion as compared to phone calls in urban setups where patients might not be able to attend to phone calls.
  4. Reduced patient no-shows.
  5. Better adherence  to chronic medication.
  6. Information about change in schedule, cancellation of appointment
  7. Change in clinic address can be notified
  8. Reminders about immunizations periodically.
  9. Communicating results of medical investigations
  10. Framing of health information messages
  11. Informing patients about health seminars and campaigns
  12. Alerts nurses , staff and other doctors
  13. Deliver health warnings and information about epidemics, etc.
  14. Reminders about overdue bills.
  15. During pregnancy to inform patient about nutrition, diet, making her aware has shown to reduce antenatal anxiety and panic attacks.

In developed countries communication through emails is an effective method, but in developing countries usage of internet by patients is questionable, esp. in smaller towns and villages, where delivery of healthcare is a major hurdle. But, a majority of these patients use mobiles, and SMS reminders can be a very cost effective method to reach out to remote locations too.

Research based proof

A study published by Cochrane library in 2012 assessed the effect of sending patients appointment reminders using mobile phone text messaging. The result:

  1. Showed an increase in healthcare attendance compared to no reminders.
  2. Cheaper than phone call reminders
  3. No adverse effects such as loss of privacy, data misinterpretation or message delivery failure.
  4. The study also says that in cardiovascular diseases, cancer, etc, prevention of risk factors like tobacco, alcohol, plays a vital role, repeated reminders reduce the chances of contracting the illness.
  5. SMS reminders to healthcare workers improved malaria treatment in rural Africa (this study was published in The Lancet)

Educating the masses

In a developing country, providing correct and relevant information is most important to facilitate health growth, avoiding misconceptions, and spreading awareness. For example, during this crucial time when H1N1, swine flu is in the stage of growing as an epidemic, all doctors wish to provide correct information to their patients and teach them preventive measures. Bulk SMS reminders will make this work faster, easier and simpler, allowing greater outreach.

Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD

References:

  1. Kannisto KA, Koivunen MH, Välimäki MA. Use of Mobile Phone Text Message Reminders in Health Care Services: A Narrative Literature Review. Eysenbach G, ed. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2014;16(10):e222. doi:10.2196/jmir.3442.
  2. Gurol-Urganci I, de Jongh T, Vodopivec-Jamsek V, Atun R, Car J. Mobile phone messaging reminders for attendance at healthcare appointments. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD007458. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007458.pub3
  3. Kalan R, Wiysonge CS, Ramafuthole T, Allie K, Ebrahim F, Engel ME. Mobile phone text messaging for improving the uptake of vaccinations: a systematic review protocol. BMJ Open. 2014 Aug 4;4(8):e005130. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005130