Texting improves medication adherence, patient health

Text messages containing both medication reminders and information about a specific skin condition helped greatly improve adherence to treatment regimens, self-care behaviors and quality of life while also lessening disease severity, according to a newly published scientific article in the journal Dermatology Research and Practice.

"It is not surprising that text messaging helped patients stick with their treatment plan and take their medication as prescribed," Dr.  Joseph C. Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare System in Boston, says in a press release. "However, we went a step further by including educational information which, we believe, can lead to critical improvements in self-care behavior that were observed in this study."

The Center for Connected Health says this is the first study to combine medication reminders with educational information in text messages.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital examined 25 adolescents and adults with a form of eczema called atopic dermatosis, and then sent the patients daily text messages for six weeks, reminding them to continue their prescribed treatment or offering information about the condition. Though at the outset, 92 percent of participants reported occasionally forgetting to take their medication--with nearly as many saying they would stop treatment when symptoms improved--by the end of the study, 68 percent reported an improvement in the number of self-care measures they performed.

After the six weeks, 76 percent of patients had seen an improvement in their skin condition and 72 percent said their quality of life was better. About 90 percent found the text messages helpful, and 84 percent would want to continue receiving the texts.

"Text messaging is a cost-effective way to deliver short, concise information to patients over a longer period of time, and because it is automated, requires no extra effort from the provider," Kvedar says. "Our study also indicates that patients are willing and ready to integrate technology, such as text messaging, into their care. It can also help to improve communication between patients and providers."

To learn more:
- read the article in Dermatology Research and Practice
- see this Center for Connected Health press release