Daily SMS Reminders Can Help Improve Health
Before the winter cold and flu season hits I decided to do what I can to get healthy and stay healthy. Last week I began a 21 day cleanse that involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables as well as taking supplements. A lot of supplements. So many that I really have trouble keeping track.
But luckily the company that makes the cleanse I’m using offers support via SMS reminders. Three times a day I get reminders to take the supplements. As a busy person I need those reminders to keep myself on track. I know how many to take and when to take them because of these reminders.
Could I set up my own reminders, leave sticky notes, or have alarms go off three times a day? I could, but it is so easy when the company already does all that for me. And it turns out SMS message reminders for health related topics help people get and stay healthy.
Results of a US study
Last year the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) conducted a systematic review of health related SMS messaging studies, 60 in total. The studies focused on “health promotion and disease prevention” using SMS messaging.
The overall conclusion HRSA made was SMS messaging improved health outcomes. However there were some issues when it came to how the topic is studied in general. For example, some participants opt out before the studies are completed. This makes it more difficult to assess the real impact of the programs and draw statistically significant (fancy words for a “real effect” versus a random one) conclusions.
The HRSA review made an observation about people opting out of the messaging before the study was over:
“The two studies that did not use tailored text message content were among the studies with the highest participant attrition. This finding may support the notion that untailored health messages are less engaging for participants than tailored messages.”
People respond better to more personal messaging. That’s a consistent and almost obvious theme no matter how you are communicating. Health, though, is such a personal topic it’s even more important to make sure the person feels like the message is for them.
There was another important observation from the studies involved in the review. When both phone and SMS messaging were used as reminders, some studies didn’t see that much difference between the groups that received phone calls and the groups that received SMS messages. But, they said:
“There was no difference in attendance rates between text message and phone message reminders. However, the cost of text message reminders was lower than the cost of phone message reminders.”
So in some cases, SMS messages were just as effective as a personal phone call, but cost the provider much less.
A global perspective
Another study from Health Psychology Review reported “SMS messages had a small, positive, significant effect on a broad range of healthy behaviour. This effect was maximised when multiple SMS messages per day were used.”
The study included people from developing and developed nations and a variety of ages, ethnicity, health status, and socio-economic backgrounds. This means the positive effect seen spans countries and other demographic information. It appears that daily SMS messaging about health topics, including reminders, can lead to healthier people.
I know I probably would have given up on my own health initiative without the reminders. It’s easy to forget to do a step, then justify when it’s ok to give up. You may have had the same experience if you’ve ever tried to follow a health related New Year’s resolution. But I’m on track thanks to the messages. If you’re a health provider of any kind, take my word, and all of the studies discussed above and see if SMS messaging can help improve your clients’ health too.
When people talk about SMS marketing they usually refer to the one-way message with coupon codes for a sale. Or potentially a two-way message requiring the customer to respond with a keyword in order to get a deal. And that is customer communication for sure. It’s also marketing. But it’s just the very basics of what SMS messaging can do for your business.
Is SMS messaging a good investment of your business’ time and money? A report from Mobile Ecosystem Forum shares some data on how SMS is being used, who is using it, and provides some evidence showing the answer to that question is most likely “Yes”!
There’s no shortage of organisations trying to help smokers quit. These include groups that use SMS as a means of supporting smokers while they try to quit. There’s quite a lot of evidence that text messaging can help people break bad habits, or make positive improvements in their lives. Here’s one example from George Washington University.
People have their mobiles within arm’s reach about 22 hours of every day. That means even while they are sleeping! It makes sense then, that if you want to remind someone of an important event (an appointment with your small business for example) you should use their mobile.
False Hope Syndrome happens to nearly 90 % of the people who make New Year’s resolutions. People set grand, hopeful, but unreasonable goals for themselves. But if you can get yourself to focus on something specific you want to improve, SMS messaging can help you achieve it.
There is something of a revolution occurring in the UK, and worldwide, where healthcare is concerned. Gone are the days of patients idly sitting and waiting for doctors to dole out advice. With 93% of the population holding a tool in their hands, anybody can use a mobile phone to access a wealth of information, just at our fingertips. SMS can maintain that feeling of instant information without causing the confusion, panic and misunderstanding so often associated with self-diagnosis.
A lot of the time, personal training can be one of the most rewarding jobs you could possibly pursue. Yet at other times, it can be dispiriting. Naturally, this is all part and parcel of the industry, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t changes you can make to your everyday work habits that will boost the benefits and mitigate the downsides. And top of the list of those changes are SMS marketing strategies.