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Text Messaging Improves Breast Cancer Screening Attendance, Study Shows

Everyone forgets commitments from time to time, and doctor's appointments are far from an exception. But missing appointments with your health care provider can be both a drain on medical resources and a danger to your health. This holds all too true in the case of regular breast cancer screenings, which are recommended for women over the age of 50, or even younger women depending on which health care authority you ask, in order to detect early signs of cancer.

The importance of breast cancer screenings, particularly among women at higher risk, is clear: detecting cancer early increases the likelihood of recovery. And with simply forgetting appointments being cited as the most common reason for missing breast cancer screening appointments, it seems ensuring that women in at-risk groups remember their appointments is a priority.

The Imperial College Healthcare Charity agreed, and funded a study that sought to test the efficacy of reminder text messages in increasing attendance at a woman's first breast cancer screening. The simple study divided participants, who were women aged 47 to 53, into an experimental condition of about 450 individuals who received text messages to remind them of their appointments and a control condition of 435 individuals. Researchers monitored and compared their breast cancer screening appointment attendance to determine whether the texts had a significant impact.

And, it seems, they did. A large majority of 72% of the experimental group attended their screenings, compared to 60% of the control condition. Overall, the women who received text message reminders were 20% more likely to show up to their appointments, with women from low-income areas being 28% more likely to attend after receiving reminder texts. This greater change in attendance among women who are more likely to be low-income is especially significant, as lower-income people tend to be less likely to get the health care they need.

These numbers speak quite clearly: text messaging reminders improve appointment attendance. Broader implementation of text message reminders by health care providers could be a great move to benefit their patients' health, not to mention to cut down on potential future health care expenses for the patient should a cancer go undetected.

The reminder texts also had an additional, more unexpected benefit: the women in the experimental condition who still did not attend their appointments were three times as likely to cancel their appointment in advance than women who did not receive text messages. Advanced cancellations are a great help to health care providers as opposed to no-shows, which deny providers expected revenue, waste resources, and hurt the practice's efficiency and timeliness by backing up operations.

It's clear that text message reminders for breast cancer screening appointments are effective in even more ways than we might have thought. Appointment reminder texts from health care providers may really be the way of the future.

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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