How mHealth can benefit homeless veterans

Homeless veterans would benefit from mHealth tools, including text, email and Internet services access, and support organizations focused on helping ex-military personnel with healthcare should tap such technologies to boost care and treatment, according to a new study.

A majority, 93 percent, of homeless veterans polled for the study, published in Telemedicine and e-Health, are interested in receiving mobile communications regarding appointment reminders, and 88 percent would welcome calls or texts regarding needed appointments.

Eighty-nine percent of homeless vets have a cellphone, and one third of those devices are smartphones. Of the 106 veterans polled, 76 percent use the Internet, 81 percent have an email address and 71 percent use text messaging.

The news comes as care providers, payers and consumers are embracing mHealth tools for a wide variety of healthcare-related needs. Text messaging can boost knowledge of cervical cancer and be a successful approach in increasing the number of Korean women undertaking a Pap test, according to a recent study. A text program is proving to help teenagers prone to binge drinking, reveals another report published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Texting is also proving to be a viable tool in helping Medicaid patients adhere to a medication regimen, avoid missing doctor appointments and stay on track with healthcare plan goals.

The veteran study's authors say mobile devices and communications tools such as text messaging present new ways to communicate and provide health intervention for hard-to-reach homeless ex-military personnel.

"The VA and community-based homeless veteran service providers should consider using mobile technologies for reinitiating contact with hard-to-reach veterans, scheduling new appointments, reminding patients of upcoming appointments, communicating laboratory test results, and discussing progress toward achieving health-related goals," state the study's authors, led by D. Keith McInnes of the Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

While calls are cited by veterans as the primary use of mobile phones, the study reports health issues were noted by 71 percent as the second most common reason for phone calls, and health concerns ranked as the third most common reason for accessing the Internet.

To learn more:
- read the study

Related Articles:
Texting proves beneficial in cervical cancer screening efforts
Texting program helps curb teen binge drinking
Text messages boost med regimen adherence for Medicaid patients
Study: mHealth can boost treatment outcomes, patient communication

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