Text Messages Offer Health Tips, Reminders

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People worldwide are using text messages as a source for health information, support and reminders, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal,text messaging programs -- which do not have a cost to most users whoare enrolled in text message plans -- are "fast, cheap and private."Unlike voicemail, a text message is "easier to recall and easier torespond to," and unlike e-mail, "it doesn't require a BlackBerry orother e-mail device when people are on the go," the Journal reports.

Womenin England can get reminders to take their birth control pills, someAustralian patients with HIV/AIDS are instructed to take theirmedications and San Francisco residents can get answers to questionsabout sexual health from the city's Health Department.In addition, German researchers are looking into the benefits ofpsychological support via text messages to bulimics, and a recent NewZealand study determined smoking cessation programs were more effectivein conjunction with supportive text messages.

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New Haven, Conn.-based Intelecare Compliance Solutionsoffers a service to companies that notifies employees via text, e-mailor voicemail messages to take pills, refill prescriptions, makeappointments and check vital signs. The company will begin offering theservice directly to consumers for $60 per year, according to CEO KevinAniskovich. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Sensei, owned in part by Humana, sends multimedia weight-loss advice to some cell phone users for a weekly fee beginning at $5.75.

According to Jonathan Linkous, executive director of the American Telemedicine Association,health text messaging in the U.S. "is just starting up," and the groupis in the process of developing guidelines for appropriate use of textmessaging in the health care industry. He said, "There are obviouslytimes when telemedicine is inappropriate," adding, "Texting someone totell them they have cancer is one of them."

Becausecommunicating through text messages often involves the shortening ofwords or simplifying of text, which might be confusing to some people,information should be delivered according to generally acceptedstandards and guidelines from the medical community, according toLinkous (Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal, 11/20).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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