We’ve discussed some of the uses of text messaging (also known as Short Messaging Service , or SMS) for HIV prevention and testing in previous posts (“R U Texting?” and “Texting 4 Health”). For the next few posts we’ll concentrate on using text messages for appointment and medication reminders. More and more clients are choosing to receive reminders about their upcoming visits or medications via text messages (limited to 140 characters) which are delivered to their mobile phones.
This week we’ll address some of the reasons why your organization or clinic might want to consider using texting reminders. In the following weeks, we’ll talk about how it’s done, the costs, and privacy considerations.
Why would an HIV/AIDS service provider want to use text messaging for appointment and medication reminders?
Because your clients are probably already texting. Whitman-Walker Clinic’s Director of Medical Adherence, Justin Goforth, told us: “We have a lot of young clients who use texting to communicate with other people in their lives, so it came naturally.” Kevin Aniskovich, CEO of Intelecare, has learned through extensive focus-group testing and work with regional Ryan White offices that their clients prefer text appointment reminders over other reminder methods (voicemail, e-mail, etc.).
“The most important advice is that this should be one aspect of a multifaceted approach to working with people living with HIV/AIDS. It can be an effective way to reach clients, strengthen their adherence and compliance with care, and meet them where they are in the world of technology”.Justin Goforth, Whitman-Walker Clinic
“It’s important to do an assessment of your clients’ access to technology like texting - if they don’t have a cell phone, frequently don’t pay their cell phone bills, or lose their phones, then it may not be a great fit for them. The most important advice is that this should be one aspect of a multifaceted approach to working with people living with HIV/AIDS. It can be an effective way to reach clients, strengthen their adherence and compliance with care, and meet them where they are in the world of technology”.
Justin Goforth, Whitman-Walker Clinic
- Texting reminders may help reduce no-show rates and increase treatment compliance. A study exploring the use of text messaging for HIV appointment reminders and treatment compliance is underway at the University of Virginia. Dr. Rebecca Dillingham of UVA finds that patients with significant challenges associated with homelessness and substance abuse are successfully using cell phones to improve their HIV medication adherence. Justin also told us, “Our providers often get a much more rapid response from their patients when they text them. Some patients don’t check their voicemail for days, but texts are right there.”
How can my organization use text messages for appointment and/or medication reminders?
Stay tuned for our blog post next week!
Note: Some of the content for this series of posts was influenced by a webinar presented by Deb Levine of Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS). A recording of the webinar is available from the webinar’s host, the Region I Family Planning Training Center.