Text Message Appointment Reminders Improve Attendance to Breast Cancer Screenings

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Text messaging’s ability to improve medical outcomes continues to gather evidence for its support, as demonstrated by a new study published in The British Journal of Cancer. The study found that women who received text messages reminding them about their breast cancer screening appointments were more likely to attend than women who did not receive the messages.

Evaluating the effectiveness of text message reminders for breast screening appointments

doctor explainingRegular screenings for women over the age of 50 can help detect early signs of breast cancer and make it easier to treat if detected. However, women often forget to show up for these preventative care appointments. As the study’s lead author Robert Kerrison pointed out: “We all forget things now and then, and doctor’s appointments are no exception – in fact, forgetting is one of the most commonly cited reasons why women miss breast cancer screening appointments.”

The study, funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity, wanted to find out if text messaging was an effective means for improving the attendance rate among women aged 47-53 who were being screened for the first time. In the study, researchers tracked the behaviors of a test group of approximately 450 women who received text message appointment reminders and a control group of 435 women did not receive text message appointment reminders.

Study results: Text messaging is an effective measure in bolstering appointment attendance

woman with orange juiceThe study found that text messaging is, definitively, a positive influence for women who had breast cancer screening appointments:

  • 72% of the women who received texts message reminders attended their screening appointment, as opposed to 60% of the women who did not receive text message reminders.
  • Overall, women who received a text message were 20 percent more likely to attend their breast cancer screening appointment.
  • Researchers also found that women were almost three times more likely to cancel their appointment in advance if they were sent a text message reminder.
  • Text messages had the greatest impact on women from economically deprived areas – those who qualified as such were 28% more likely to attend their first screening if they received a text message.

Results such as these hold great weight for text messaging’s continued use in the healthcare industry, as they demonstrate text messaging’s ability to increase efficacy whenever and wherever applied.

How the study reinforces what we already know about SMS’s key strengths in the healthcare arena

Given text messaging’s ability to offer personalized and immediate access to healthcare, it’s not surprising that patients respond to it so well. Studies from all over the world continue to underscore the fact that text messaging consistently achieves better results than any other reminder system. This especially holds true when considering the frustrating games of phone tag that occur when healthcare providers use phone calls to reach patients, or the poor open and response rates of emails.

Text messaging is also the most effective way to reach the exact populations that are most at risk of falling through the cracks of the healthcare system. People who live in households that make less than $30,000 a year send two times as many text messages as those in households that make more than $75,000 a year. And many studies strongly suggest that missed appointments – which in the U.S. accounts annually for hundreds of millions of lost revenue – can be remedied through the use of text messaging. Indeed, a review in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that text messaging improved healthcare outcomes in 77% of the studies reviewed.

If you’d like to learn more about the efficacy of text message appointment reminders, you can look into these resources:

And for all other purposes, including getting started on incorporating text messaging into your health program, please contact us at sales@mobilecommons.com.

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