Text Messaging – New Way To “Visit” the Doctor and Improve Healthcare

Technology has had a real impact thus far on healthcare and will continue to eventually make great improvement in the services our senior loved ones receive.

Leading, hopefully, to better senior health.

We are able to use technology to see their – and our – medical reports, store health history and be more closely involved in their medical data than ever before.

One recent research study by Accenture stated that even more of us want to connect with our healthcare team via the latest technology, including virtual office visits, email connectivity and remote vital sign monitoring.

Accenture reports that 46% of seniors over 65 want to access their health records via a mobile app, 42% would like to see their doctor virtually, 68% want to refill prescriptions electronically and 14% would like to schedule appointments electronically.

In a conclusion that may surprise many family caregivers, current and future seniors are willing to wear medical devices that capture a variety of health information and are looking for even more updated devices to “sense” our every move so that we can stay in control of our health.

What if our senior loved ones and their healthcare teams could connect in a more timely manner using smartphones?

Text Messaging in Healthcare

Mobile text messaging has been finding many healthcare applications lately, applications designed to improve our health and help us change our behaviors to achieve health.

The overall goal of using mobile health especially for those that are harder to reach in person is to improve our outcomes and success when making changes to improve our health.

Areas where text messaging between healthcare providers and consumers like your senior loved one are being used currently:

  • diabetes self-management
  • weight loss
  • physical activity
  • smoking cessation
  • medication adherence for antiretroviral therapy and other medications

Benefits of Healthcare Texting for Seniors

Seniors (and us too) who use text messaging to make changes that benefit their health can gain many benefits and this has been shown with research.

More studies on the efficacy of mobile health will be forthcoming as the health industry looks for solutions to prevent chronic disease as we age and increase the ability to reach all consumers using technology.

  1. It has been shown that those who use mobile health are more compliant with their treatment plan.
  2. We take our blood sugar more regularly and are able to report the results in real time so that medication regimens can be adjusted and hospitalizations decreased.
  3. Tighter blood sugar control results in improved Hemoglobin A1C levels.
  4. Medication management can reduce medication (skipping or dosing) errors.
  5. Attendance to scheduled appointments, classes, support groups and procedures can be improved with text reminders.
  6. Improved immunization compliance via alerts and scheduling.
  7. Smoking cessation reminders, tips and alerts improves success and accountability.
  8. Emergency preparedness messages for those who are vulnerable providing information about shelters, evacuations, and transportation before an event and help after an event.
  9. Reporting vital signs and real time health information to and from the medical team.
  10. Lab test information can be reported without delay.
  11. Reminders and encouragement using information sent based on individual needs to get physically active, manage diet prescriptions, control portion sizes, limit salt intake or other treatment/lifestyle change needs.

One definite benefit of texting is that is can be a two way communication between parties that can provide information, answers, and solutions in a timely way that can prevent a health crisis for many seniors.

Because it can be interactive, seniors can learn by using quizzes, puzzles and games that keep them involved in improving their own health behaviors.

Requirements for Mobile Health

Seniors who wish to be included in the wave of those who are accessing healthcare providers through the use of text messaging need to get ready.

  • The first thing they need is to have smartphones, a tech tool that can bring many other benefits. Sounds like that would be evident but the recent research by Pew Institute, seniors have been slow to adopt the use of smartphones. They estimate that 23% do not use cell phones and only 27% actually own a smartphone. More affluent and higher educated seniors are the earliest adopters of technology. However, two in five seniors report that they have a physical or medical condition that keeps them from using the internet or tech device.
  • Seniors have to understand the benefits that can be attained when they connect with technology. Pew reports that 35% of non-internet using seniors feel that they are not missing anything.
  • Many seniors feel uncomfortable with technology and report that they need help to use devices, including smartphones, and only 18% reported being comfortable with smartphones and 77% stated they needed others to walk them through using devices.
  • Some seniors may need help more than once as they could forget the directions or don’t use a smartphone often enough for it to become ingrained. Once seniors become true users, 71% go online every day. Getting setup and comfortable with the technology devices that could help them make significant health improvements has been shown to have lasting effects.
  • To use with a healthcare provider, systems will need to be HIPPA compliant and secure. When specific medical data is transmitted, the provider will need to have a secure system.
  • Our seniors may need education and improved health literacy to understand some of the information being shared, as there are practical limitations when sending text messages. When alerts and information are shared, information may be shortened in such a way that our seniors may not readily understand its meaning.

Many More Tech Benefits for Seniors’ Health Coming

Technology continues to advance and the applications for our seniors’ health (and ours as well) will only continue to emerge and grow.

It is our role as a caregiver to seek out those advances that will benefit our senior the most and encourage our healthcare providers to adopt these programs.

Many providers and insurance organizations such as Medicare and others have begun to see the value in using technology to prevent and manage chronic diseases.

Helping our seniors be poised to take advantage of these innovations will help them and you in the coming years.

We would love to hear your experiences with technology and how it helps your senior interact with their healthcare team and improve their treatment and lifestyle behaviors for better health.