Texted follow-up care improves the health of HIV patients

For those still skeptical about the power of text messaging to help patients with medication adherence, look no further than...Kenya? 

That's right. HIV patients in the African nation who were given cell phones and sent regular text messages were 12 percent more likely to take their antiretroviral therapy (ART) medication and check in with their caregivers than patients who were not given cell phones, according to a study published recently in the journal The Lancet. What's more, such a regimen improves health, with 9 percent more patients who received text messages experiencing a drop in the amount of the virus in their blood. 

Overall, 538 HIV patients participated in the study, with a little more than half--273--receiving cell phones and weekly messages. The other 265 patients involved received standard follow-up care not involving text messages. 

Those who received the messages had 48 hours to respond that they either were OK or that they needed help before a clinician responded regardless of their answer. Those who responded within the allotted time frame were left to continue their regimen until the next week's message, when the cycle started all over again. 

The study was conducted between May 2007 and October 2008. 

"The SMS intervention was well received by patients, many of whom reported that they felt ‘like someone cares,'" the study's authors wrote, according to Bloomberg. "Mobile phones might be effective tools to improve patient outcome in resource-limited settings," they concluded. 

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read this CMIO piece
- check out the Bloomberg article
- read this accompanying commentary, also in The Lancet (reg. required)