Text messaging doffed in urban health education study

Text messaging may be a preferred channel for pushing health messages these days--a number of studies are testing its efficacy right now. But for researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia, cost concerns forced them to use email delivery instead.

GovernmentHealthIT reported last week that university researchers are studying the effects of sending biweekly health-related text messages to residents of underserved neighborhoods near the hospital. For cost reasons, however, researchers have had to switch to email delivery, William Santamore, Temple's director of telemedicine research, told FierceMobileHealthcare today. The reasons are two-fold:

1) Temple is working with local community leaders to distribute the health messages, and those local leaders worried about the cost to residents of receiving multiple text messages per month. They indicated they prefer email delivery, Santamore explained.

2) The relatively limited funding--a $100,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation--meant the study could only investigate a single transmission method. So researchers have had to settle on email for now. They are seeking additional funding, though, and hope to test text and other messaging options in the near future, Santamore said.

The messages themselves are unchanged. They'll address a variety of health topics from hypertension to good eating habits to asthma and more, according to Santamore.

One interesting twist to this study: The messages will be distributed not by the hospital, but through local churches or community centers. Researchers theorize that patients may be more likely to follow guidance from a trusted local official, rather than from a doctor. Already signed on are Congreso de Latinos Unidos, the Maria de los Santos Health Center and the Health and Social Services Ministry of Triumph Baptist Church.

In another difference from many ongoing studies, the Temple study's messages will be customized for recipients' ethnicity, language and other preferences, such as Spanish texts for Hispanic patients, Santamore noted.

To learn more:
- read the GovernmentHealthIT story