Using Mobile Technology to Improve Health Outcomes

It takes extending the definition of social media a little further than might seem obvious, but this study shows how mobile technology can be used to enhance health care.  The study used text messages to provide educational information about a medical problem and to help improve treatment adherence.  The results of the study were positive: better adherence, strong patient satisfaction scores, and a high proportion of patients willing to continue receiving the texts.


Admittedly this is a small study and lacked a control group, it presents interesting ideas for future study.  Participants in the study found the text messages to be useful and (presumably) non-intrusive, given how many would be willing to continue receiving messages in the future.  One could imagine a medical practice where a nurse or provider could send out such messages or reminders to patients who had difficult-to-control illnesses in order to educate and promote better outcomes.


The relevance to social media is this: as of right now, privacy concerns limit the ability to use social media for patient care.  The public nature of much of this communication means that personal health information cannot be shared in this setting.  However, posting educational information via Twitter or Facebook (which patients could chose to receive via SMS or text services) would be acceptable considering they are not targeted at any one person.  Similarly, medication reminders could be generally distributed through similar means.  Meanwhile, direct text or SMS messages sent to an individual could be used to actively target care more directly.  In this model, social media allows health care professionals to educate and promote health in a  general (but still interactive) way while not impinging on private matters.


Social media has great impact in sharing information with a community and engaging in general conversations.  Adding SMS or text messages to social media communication allows health care providers to target individual patients more effectively.  If this early report bears out, then the impact of social medial and mobile technology can be substantial.

4 Responses to Using Mobile Technology to Improve Health Outcomes

  1. carmen2u says:

    Similarly positive results from text messaging were revealed in a UK study four years ago involving teen patients with diabetes. In this randomized trial, children and young people receiving the Sweet Talk intervention (text reminders with goal prompts and other messages) had significant improvements in self-efficacy for diabetes. The group randomized to intensive insulin therapy also had significant improvements in glycaemic control. 82% of patients felt that it had helped their diabetes self-management, and 90% wanted to continue receiving messages at the end of the study. Read the study here:

    As the literature accumulates, medical providers will be hard-pressed to ignore the virtues of incorporating social media tools.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Einstein Coll of Med and Mark Ryan, Mark Ryan. Mark Ryan said: Using Mobile Technology to Improve Health Outcomes « Social Media Healthcare […]

  3. @marksphone says:

    Below is a summary of a study done a couple of years ago that combined software and mobile phone. The link to the study is below. This demonstrates that mobile technology can be used in an opt in fashion to drive change in behavior and outcomes.

    San Mateo Medical Center distributed mobile phones with customized software to young asthma patients, allowing them to communicate with and receive realtime
    feedback from providers on at least a daily basis. The focus of the communication was on how to better manage their condition on an ongoing basis, with the goal of
    reducing exacerbations that might lead to costly acute episodes. A 6 month pilot study of children and teens with severe persistent asthma found that the technology enabled daily communication helped patients to better manage their conditions. Over the study period, patient adherence was high and there were no emergency department (ED) visits among the study population, compared to a national average of 23 annual visits among asthma patients.

  4. Hillary says:

    As a Primary Physician’s office manager, I feel many patients would benefit from Dr.Tech. Patients greatly appreciate getting appointment reminders and confirmations which help them remember appointments. Making an appointment and seeing your doctor once is just as important as follow up treatments. Repetitive information such as instructions will benefit the patients who forgets what their doctor has said as they are walking out the door. Furthermore, it would allow patients to be proactive about their medical care.

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