In 2017, global technology consulting firm Counterpoint Research estimated that about 650 million people in India owned a mobile phone, and just north of 300 million of them used a smartphone. That's a little less than a quarter of the population, and the market is growing: Counterpoint Research guesses that smartphone users could grow by more than 50% in the next few years, CNN reported.
Mobile health technology is rapidly being integrated into conventional healthcare, making care more proactive and more efficient.
Better communication through texting
Many mobile apps and patient portals offer mobile health services, such as medication reminders and real-time consultations. But despite the prevalence of smartphones, plenty of people still don't have them. And many who own smartphones are not able to do more than make basic audio and video calls.
But almost anyone using a mobile phone is familiar and comfortable with texting and SMS messages, which have been in use for decades. Texting offers a quick means of communication, yet it does not require participants to communicate simultaneously. Web-based portals allow automated messaging, making it convenient for healthcare teams to manage SMS communications to patients — alerting patients, for example, when their medications are about to expire or are due for their next course of medicines.
How texting is changing healthcare
Advancements in treatments and technology are difficult to implement without patients' cooperation. However, people sometimes don't proactively monitor their health, especially if they feel OK.
Many healthcare centers and institutions are sharpening their focus on patient-centered care, and they've started reaching out to patients via texts and secure messages. a:care is a platform that provides a suite of services and experiences like medication reminder, health tips, condition information to a patient and has vast library of resources that helps doctors to motivate their patient towards managing health and making better decisions.
Mobile health services and texting have been used effectively in promoting health education, increasing access to healthcare, aiding preventive strategies and supporting public health programs. Some other ways texting is being utilized to improve patient care include:
Healthcare reminder messages. People lead busy lives, and for mobile users without the luxury of smartphone calendars, text messages can be a welcome reminder to pay attention to their health, whether that means buying the next course of medication or confirming an appointment. Labs are now using SMS services to notify patients of their test results, and some clinics use SMS services to send reminders about printing reports before scheduled visits.
SMS services and texting also enable patients to communicate with their healthcare team if they have minor queries between appointments. Two-way texting helps avoid the hassle of scheduling a phone call.
Text messages for healthcare aren't just convenient — they're also effective. The Journal of Medical Internet Research reports that randomized clinical trials suggest that SMS reminders helped increase the rate of treatment adherence and improved rates of attendance at scheduled appointments.
Behavioral change messages. Texting can also be an effective means of communication for people trying to address behavioral and substance abuse issues. A simple text reminding you of the benefits of quitting smoking could be a good motivator for someone who is trying to quit. A gentle reminder to not snack between meals can remind someone who is trying to lose weight of their goals.
Public health issues. Whether it is an acute disease outbreak like swine flu or dengue or a general health campaign such as vaccination awareness, SMS services can be an effective means of mass communication and can reach people who have ignored newspaper campaigns. Text messages that remind people to go for screening tests can help detect the early stages of disease and possibly help prevent an outbreak. Government- or institute-aided health check-up camps can also utilize SMS service to gather attention and increase the number of attendees.
Moving toward a mobile future
The possibilities for texting in healthcare seem endless. In addition to providing a link to patients, texting has now become commonly utilized means of communication between the healthcare teams and staff as well. The coming years will no doubt reveal increased opportunities for using everyday tech in the healthcare space.
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