Safety-net providers face hurdles launching texting solutions

While healthcare organizations increasingly are using text messages to boost treatment efforts, several challenges remain for safety-net facilities, according to the results of a small study.

Concerns regarding patient privacy and data management, as well as the hurdle of meshing text communications into electronic health record systems, are prime factors preventing such providers from tapping text, research published in published at BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.

For the study, interviews were conducted with eight California-based safety-net systems that received funding to pilot a text-based program; each organization could choose how its program would be rolled out. Five of the eight sites had no previous experience using text messaging. 

"Navigating government regulations that protect patient privacy and guide the handling of protected health information emerged as a crucial barrier," the authors said. "A related technical challenge in five sites was the labor-intensive tracking and documenting of texting communications due to an inability to integrate texting platforms with electronic health records."

The use of texting in healthcare has increased over the past several years given its low cost, the proliferation of smartphones and ease of use for both consumers and providers.

Mobile messaging tools can help boost medication adherence among chronic disease patients, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. As FierceMobileHealthcare has reported, texting is helping reduce hospital re-admissions among chronic care patients and has helped keep patients engaged in their care following a hospital stay.

Further investigation is needed to determine how different texting platform and intervention designs can impact efficacy of such tools, according to the authors.

"To promote faster adoption of texting in the shorter term, health systems in the safety-net should consider including texting into universal consent procedures for electronic communications, and partner closely with vendors, legal advisors and peer health systems who have experience with texting," they said. "We believe these early results from safety-net systems can inform a broad range of health systems interested in implementing texting programs."

For more information:
- read the study