Texting for health
The continuing popularity of mobile phones have been successfully paired with health provision in different countries - could your service users benefit from these ideas too?
9th January 2013
Macleans, an online Canadian lifestyle magazine, recently reported on the health care technology trends they predict for 2013 and we thought they were rather marvellous. We decided to pull out a few of their suggestions and see what you thought – could your service users benefit from having their health care provision linked to their mobile phone?
Kenyan QR codes and vaccinations.
Health care innovators are truly starting to catch up with app stores when it comes to getting people onto their mobile phones and interacting with different services. In Kenya, the University of Nairobi are improving child immunization through the use of QR codes and mobile phones.
To encourage uptake in rural areas, staff now will present parents with a unique QR code for each vaccination carried out. These codes can then be scanned with mobile phones or local machines and the parent will receive a small seed packet that then leads to fresh food for the family; either directly or through increased farming profit!
Have a nose at the video with Dr. Benson Wamalwa now; it’s only 1.5mins long and a good ‘un!
Bangladeshi newborn vaccination text messenging and voice messaging
Similarly, in Bangladeshi, vaccinations and immunisations programs have been found to be lacking in coverage. Dr Jasim Uddin of the Centre For Equity And Health Systems in Dhaka has come up with a phone-based tactic to combat the problem.
Only 42-60% of children in remote, rural areas or those that live as street children are currently receiving sufficient immunisations - predominately because of inadequate systems for reminding parents and keeping track of newborns. Dr. Uddin has proposed that instead the Upazila Health Complex receives a computerized device that will automatically register newborns and remind parents about immunisations.
If you want to watch the presentation yourself, you can here. Unfortunately, there’s no sound so all apologies to readers who’ll find this an obstacle.
Text messages for HIV medication reminders
Another instance was that of text messages for medication reminders! This idea sounds so simple, it’s hard to understand how it isn’t massively prevalent. A small study from the Boston Medical Centre offered 19 HIV sufferers a choice of information feeds (such as jokes, Bible verses or sports news) to receive alongside their medication reminder. Initial contact required them to text back and confirm that they’d taken their meds; if they didn’t, they’d receive further reminders every 15 minutes.
Interestingly, text messages worked better than pager messages and the rate of adherence continued after the messages stopped! The Centre is aware this was a small sample group but hope to carry out more studies paired with literacy training too. Another in California found texts grew medication adherence in 580 patients from 77% to 85% for HIV sufferers and 82% to 91% for chronic anti-diabetes medication.
Turning theory into practice
Out of these three examples, I see some very real implications for social care in the UK. When I worked as a senior support worker, we administrated medication for many service users and the current prevalence of texting and mobile phones seems like a great opportunity to enable those with learning difficulties and mental health issues to increase their independence by administrating their own meds. Like any new system, it would take time to settle into but I think it would be a worthwhile experiment.
The Aids.gov site has a great blog detailing many web-based and computer-based programs you could use to install a mobile medication system with your residents or supported individuals – maybe it’s time to have a chat with them and their health and social care team and see if this is something you could work towards?