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The value of text messaging for mHealth

· Mobile Zone

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Earlier this year I looked at a new platform that was aiming to help people to change their behaviors to something altogether healthier.  It was an AI based virtual nurse that would help you follow a new health plan via your mobile device.

It’s certainly an innovative solution, and with developments in artificial intelligence coming on board at a rapid pace, it seems a path that is only likely to become more populated over the coming years.

Of course, whilst those at the forefront of innovation may be pioneering such approaches, that shouldn’t mean we discard less fashionable interventions.

This was highlighted by a recent review that was published in the Annual Review of Public Health, which found that interventions sent via text message were very effective for areas such as diabetes, weight loss, smoking cessation and physical activity.

The study explored 228 text message intervention studies that covered health promotion, disease self-management and disease prevention.

Around 1/3 of the reviews discovered a significant positive impact on the health outcomes for patients in the studies, across areas such as weight loss and smoking cessation.

In one of the weight loss studies for instance, participants who received SMS related reminders experienced seven times the weight loss of those who received no such reminders.  Such findings appeared common across studies involving weight loss.

The positive results were replicated also in areas such as medication adherence, with the strong results particularly prevalent when the interventions were unique and tailored to each patient.

There can be a tendency at times to only look at the cutting edge when it comes to innovation, but there are any number of less sexy innovations that can still prove very effective.

Whilst Molly the AI nurse may in time prove a remarkably effective way of supporting patients towards a healthy lifestyle, this study reminds us that a simple text message can often do a very good job on its own.

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