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The Health Implications of Texting

Health Implications of Texting
When we think of texting, we tend to envision a purely social medium: first to come to mind is often the image of teenagers firing off messages bereft with acronyms. While texting is an enormously popular social medium and has played a key role in shaping communication, it plays other significant roles in our lives. In fact, texting may have a variety of surprising implications for the world of health and medicine.

A major way texting may be applied to the health sphere is as a means of reminding people to take their medication. A 2012 study in which participants received text message reminders to take their medication over nine months demonstrated that the reminder texts bred significantly higher chronic adherence than that of the control group. In other words, the reminder texts were highly effective both at causing people to take their medication and at creating long-term habits of medication adherence.

Through the use of text messaging, forgetting to take medication could become a thing of the past. The health complications that accompany poor medication adherence can be very serious, making this application of texting truly important.

Text message reminders' benefit to health may not just stop at medicine. The success of text message reminders for medication suggests that texting might also be an effective vehicle for other reminders; text messaging could also be used to remind people to act on their fitness regimens, to attend medical appointments, and to schedule routine health screenings.

The health benefits of text message reminders do not stop at reminding subscribers to perform a certain task; texting may also be an effective way to cause people to give up certain habits. Programs like Text2Quit aid those who are trying to quit smoking by texting them reminders and encouraging messages, as well as allowing them to text keywords when they experience cravings to receive texts with resources that will help them fight these feelings.

While no program to quit smoking will boast perfect success rates due to the intense and complicated nature of addiction and recovery, texting-based programs may be more effective than more traditional methods. A 2012 study of the efficacy of Text2Quit demonstrated that those using Text2Quit were twice as likely to quit smoking than those using self-help materials. Additionally, participants reported preferring the text messaging program to programs that involve counseling via phone call.

Texting can not only be applied to benefit one's own health, but the health of others. One way texting may be applied to the sphere of health and medicine is through targeted outreach and crowdsourcing; instead of sending texts to aid individuals, health-related projects in need of participants can use texting to seek individuals to aid them.

One way texting has been used to crowdsource for the benefit of medicine is to gather study participants. Numerous researchers run studies and experiments, for many of which they must gather volunteers. While using text messaging to find prospective study participants may not always yield a totally random sample, it can still be a sound means by which to collect a pool of subjects for specific populations, such as teenagers. Many such studies yield findings that can have important implications for the world of medicine, health, and wellness.

SMS as a means of crowdsourcing might also be applied in more serious medical situations. One instance of this is the use of texting to assemble transplant teams. Organ transplants entail a relatively complicated process that usually involves numerous prospective donors and multiple teams that must collectively find, select, acquire, transport, and transplant an organ. As a fast and effective means of contacting people, texting may be a helpful way to locate the necessary people to assemble a transplant team so that important transplants may occur as efficiently as possible.

These applications of texting are certainly a boon to the sphere of health and medicine, which constantly grows more efficient and effective as we develop technology and find new uses for it. With so many new uses for SMS arising in the medical community, texting promises to provide many innovative and useful new programs to come.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net


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