Text messaging

Description

Text messages are short, typed messages sent to or from mobile phones, they can also be sent from computers to mobile phones and vice versa. The most common form of text messaging is that which is sent person to person but text messages can also be used to interact with automated systems for example information request services, polling and voting systems and reminder and advice services.

Text message pilots for reminder services and information have already been running for some time with success - it is very likely that we will see further work around expanding the use of text messaging in larger scale versions of existing ideas and in further piloting of increasingly innovative and engaging applications.

Examples

Reminder services

Using text messaging help ensure that appointments are more likely to be attended. Medication reminders are also sent via text such as contraceptive pill services some of which are paid for others which are free, like this under 21s scheme where the subscriber can actually choose the wording of the text message reminder, tailoring the service to take individual situation and sensitivities into account.

Test results

Providing routine test results such as this system which provides all-clears only. Routine test results that require no further advice or context from medical professionals could be sent directly to a patient’s mobile phone such as this pharmacist trial.

 

Specialist information

Providing specialist information to audiences who have specifically requested it such as malaria information to travellers in risk zones.

 

Wellness and motivation

Wellness and motivation programmes such as smoking cessation programmes. A successful example in New Zealand showed adaptability, reaching both Maori and Caucasian communities demonstrating the effectiveness of text in reaching excluded and mainstream groups alike.

 

Network

Text could assist the maintenance of networks to motivate people working to maintain wellness, e.g. eating, exercise etc such as the innovative Chick Clique example for teenage girls' health which combines text with other tools.

Polling

Providing opinion on any changes to services, an example being the first mass media facilitated health poll via text as featured on BBC’s Watchdog in 2003.

Choosing

Simple selection process for preferred services such as appointments

Voting

Where appropriate, citizens could be invited to cast a vote for changes to a service via text message such as this example of youth parliament voting. Benefits and advantages

  • Allows people to subscribe to receive information specifically relevant to them without any further effort on their part as can be sent automatically until they request to unsubscribe
  • Familiarity – text messages are widely used for informal communication, this means that many people are familiar with the technology and have access to a mobile phone and already receive trusted information via that device.
  • Diverse – text messages can be sent from computers using automated systems not just via mobile phones
  • Mobile phones are very popular – people like the convenience of mobiles and therefore use them frequently so there is less of a technology barrier
  • Text is particularly popular amongst young people who risk exclusion
  • Could help to remind people or provide various pieces of routine information with good cost effectiveness
  • Has been proven to reduce the number of DNA (Did not Attend) appointments.
  • Has been shown to be more motivational than printed information in certain cases

  Risks and disadvantages

  • Excludes those who do not or cannot use mobile phones
  • Test result provision via text - there are risks around ensuring that the correct person has received and understood the information provided via text
  • Expenses incurred could prove a barrier to lower income groups when sending messages, but should not impact upon receipt of a message.
  • Not necessarily as motivational as person to person contact
  • Not discursive if texting a system for an automated response rather than a person
  • Text messaging is less frequently used by older age groups so would perhaps not be as suitable for contacting those groups at the moment, although this may change in future

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