Texting helps with at-risk pregnancies, Partners plans to expand program

Sending supportive text messages to moms-to-be, both during and after birth, can improve patients' prenatal and postpartum care, according to a study conducted by Partners Health in Boston, and just published in the journal The Female Patient.

The study, which FierceMobileHealthcare alerted you to last November, provided text messages three times per week to high-risk pregnant women between the ages of 14 and 34 reminding them of clinical milestones, appointments, fetal development and childbirth preparation. One sample message described in the study: "Hi, it's your OB team. We want to make sure u have a plan to get to the Birthplace. Let us know if we can help."

The study was small, just 25 patients, but found 100% of participants read all or most of the texts, and 84 percent said it helped them take better care of themselves during pregnancy and their babies after birth.

In more objective terms, the group receiving the text messages had a higher level of attendance to prenatal visits than a control group that didn't receive the messages, according to the study.

As a result, Partners' plans to expand the program from its initial location, Lynn (Mass.) Community Health Center, to other hospitals in its network.

"Text messaging provides a big opportunity to better engage patients in their care by communicating with them in a channel they prefer," said Joseph Kvedar, Director of Partners' Center for Connected Health. "As this pilot suggests, texting programs have great potential for providing low-cost, accessible educational messaging to patients."

The study's findings build on those of University of California, San Diego, which tested the federally funded messaging program Text4Baby in late 2011. The UC-SanDiego study found the text messages made women more likely to discuss pregnancy-related problems with their physicians, remember key appointments, and get immunizations they or their babies needed.

The Text4Baby program is officially two years old this month, and now has hundreds of thousands of users across the U.S.

Other mom/baby messaging systems are tackling the population of low-income, at-risk pregnant women. We alerted you to momEcare, generated by the app challenge, Imagine Cup, last spring--aimed specifically at using text messaging to help with prenatal care in developing countries.

To learn more:
- read the study at The Female Patient
- see the Partners' announcement
- learn more about Text4Baby from the CDC