SMS Continues to Be Most Powerful Tool in mHealth

Over the past few years there has been an increasing amount of mobile technologies that enhance the ability to access public health information and improve the delivery of health services to the public at large, as well as to health care professionals. The ubiquity of cell phones makes SMS text messaging the natural platform to deliver these interventions.

Over the past few years there has been an increasing amount of mobile technologies that enhance the ability to access public health information and improve the delivery of health services to the public at large, as well as to health care professionals.

The ever-diversifying nature of these technologies--and how they are being implemented--was the main focus of the 2011 mHealth Summit session, “The Intersection of Mobile Health and Public Health—Towards Greater Understanding & Collaboration."

Paul Meyer, CEO of Voxiva Inc—a mobile solutions company that offers a range of patient engagement services which incorporate social marketing and evidence-based best practices to their users—spoke about their latest initiative, Text4baby, a service that utilizes SMS technology on expectant mothers’ mobile phones to deliver pregnancy tips, or postnatal information on caring for the baby. Users can receive this service by texting to a number the word “BABY” for pre-birth tips or “UPDATE” for receiving tips after birth.

“Over 85% of Americans own a cell phone and 72% of cell users send or receive text messages,” Meyer said. “We created a population-facing preventative health utility.” He went on to add that the service is “The SMS to expect when you’re expecting.”

One of the more riveting topics at the session was "Teens and mHealth," where Yvonne Hunt, Program Director at the National Cancer Institute, spoke about what the organization is doing to help teen smokers quit.

SmokeFreeText, an app that was to launch the day of this presentation, is a mobile cessation utility aimed at helping teenagers access customized information on how to quit smoking. “20% of teens have reported smoking” Hunt said. “More than ½ have said they have tried to quit, but they haven’t used evidence-based cessation to do so.”

Part of a larger NCI initiative called Smoke-Free Team, a website and suite of mobile apps designed for teens that “want to quit smoking,” SmokeFreeText aims to deliver custom tailored messaging by capturing demographic and behavioral information at signup. The service considers data such as age, gender, quit date, and smoking frequency when delivering their messaging.

Additionally, the frequency of the messaging will change over the course of the quit attempt, as well as provide an assessment of the user’s craving level, mood, and smoke-free status.

“Users can text keywords to iQuit at any time for extra support,” Hunt said. “They can also opt-out at any time by texting the word STOP.”