This week, we return to our series on using text messaging for HIV appointment and medication reminders. We are dedicating four posts to this topic, which often comes up in conversations between Miguel Gomez, AIDS.gov’s Director, and AIDS service providers. We recently discussed some of the reasons why an AIDS service organization might want to use text messaging. This week we’re focusing on the how. In weeks to come we’ll be addressing costs and privacy.
How can my organization use text messages for appointment and/or medication reminders?
The field of texting is still new, but here are a few examples:
- Software for providers (or your clients) to schedule and send text messages. There are a number of options for software that allows you to schedule and track appointment and medication reminders. These include secure Web accounts accessed from your computer or software that can be integrated into an existing client management system. Sometimes the easiest way to get a sense of how texting would work in your setting is to call a few vendors and let them walk you through the options. Some of the many vendors are listed below (more details to come in our upcoming post on cost):
Note: Some systems offer two-way messaging so your clients can confirm or reschedule an appointment or medication reminder. Dr. Nadia Dowshen and Dr. Robert Garofalo of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago are planning to use two-way messaging for a pilot HIV medication-adherence study with adolescents who have previously failed treatment, or are newly diagnosed. They told us that clients receive a daily message, and are then prompted to press “1” if they have taken their medication already, “2” if they want to be reminded again in an hour, etc. This automated system allows the clinic to give their clients personal adherence reports each month.
- Free or inexpensive online resources. You or your client can sign up for a program (often sponsored by a pharmaceutical company) to receive text reminders or e-mails for medication times, appointments, and refills. Some programs are geared towards providers and others towards clients. Some examples include:
- Send a text message via e-mail or a cell phone. If you know your patients’ cell phone numbers and carriers, and have their consent, you can e-mail them text messages. The e-mail address includes their phone number and carrier (i.e., firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also text them directly from a cell phone. Learn how to send a text message from a mobile phone if you’ve never done so, and check out this list of text messaging abbreviations . If you are planning to offer text reminders to all your clients, this is probably not the most efficient or secure system, but as Nadia told us, “The case managers are texting informally already, from their own cell phones — because sometimes they know it’s a better way to communicate with hard-to-reach youth.”
What’s Up Next?
Next, we’ll focus on the costs of text messaging appointment and medication reminders. We’re looking for examples — so if you know of any clinics or providers that are texting their appointment or medication reminders, please let us know!