Ensuring Patient Compliance Using Text Messages and a PHR

Posted on October 20, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the really interesting things that I’ve heard at the Mobile Health Expo has been the use of text messages to assist with patient compliance.

I think this is at least the third time at this conference that I’ve been hearing about the use of text messages in healthcare as a way to remind patients of their need to comply with the doctors instructions.

In one case, NoMoreClipboard is working with a hospital to use medical minutes (basically subsidizing their cell phone plan) for participants in a diabetes program. In this program, users would access the NoMoreClipboard PHR through their cell phone where they can update their blood glucose levels or other information as designed by their hospital.

This is pretty cool, but the interesting part is the way they’re using text messages together with the PHR. For example, if the patient doesn’t check in with their information, then a text message is sent reminding them to do so. Plus, once they enter in their information, they can get proactive messages about how they should deal with various blood sugar levels. For example, if their levels are low it might instruct them to eat or drink something to raise that level (although in a nice medically appropriate way).

I should have written down the exact numbers, but in the above case they found that they saved about $18,500 in treatment costs for a compliant patient vs. the non-compliant patient.

I of course had to ask if this could actually be a problem for the hospital. Sure, it improves healthcare, which is incredibly valuable. However, would this impact the revenue that a hospital was receiving previously to treat patients? Sure, it’s a bit ominous to think this way, but let’s be honest that the hospital revenue is an important factor.

Jeff Donnell from NoMoreClipboard brought up a good point that in many cases these patients were ones who had no health insurance and so the hospital was often not making money from treating these patients, but in fact was having to pay for these patients. So, being able to lower these costs is a huge benefit on top of the clinical benefits.

Of course, this is just one example of the usages of text messages in healthcare. I’m really finding it fascinating. Text messages seem to be one of the most innovative technology I’ve heard discussed and not all the various “Apps” that are out there. Yep, the simple text message is being used in all sorts of creative ways. Plus, text messages tied to a PHR or some other web source is really interesting as well.

Of course, I can’t help but imagine how text messages could be integrated into an EMR. Appointments is one obvious area. Patient compliance is another interesting one. What other areas of an EMR could benefit from the implementation of text messages?

One speaker said that on average text messages are read within 4 minutes. There has to be a way to leverage this attention in healthcare and EMR.