Hopkins tries text messaging to reach teens

"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," says Johns Hopkins pediatrician Delphine Robotham in a Newswise story. We think Robotham means the "better" part is communicating for improved healthcare, while "worse" refers to some of the downsides of texting, like traffic accidents. (To this point, we haven't been able to find a serious downside to texting as an adjunct to care delivery.)

For this reason, a number of pediatricians are excited about harnessing the power of text messaging to improve medication adherence, even among younger patients. In fact, Johns Hopkins Children's Center is considering a formal program to connect with a real SMS sweet spot, namely teenagers. Newswise reports that teen health expert Dr. Maria Trent is putting together a pilot to remind patients with pelvic inflammatory disease to take their meds. Another Hopkins physician, pediatric HIV specialist Dr. Allison Agwu will conduct a formal study of texting appointment reminders. Those are two conditions teens aren't likely to want to discuss with their parents, so texting makes a lot of sense because it's rather discreet.

"A patient can read a text instantly and respond unobtrusively, it doesn't require Internet access or picking up the phone in the middle of class or an important meeting," Robotham says. "Sometimes, I call patients and I get no response, but when I text, I get a response immediately."

To learn more about SMS at Hopkins:
- read this Newswise story, as published in The Oklahoman