Objective: To conduct a technical appraisal and qualitative interviews with short message service (SMS--mobile phone text message) users in mainstream health care.
Design: Observation of service usage followed by in-depth semi-structured interviews.
Setting: A National Health Service (NHS) general practice in Scotland.
Participants: One hundred and eighty patients registered.
Main outcome measures: Service utilisation and patients' views.
Results: It was technically feasible to open up access to mainstream NHS general practice services using SMS for appointment booking, repeat prescription ordering, clinical enquiries and remote access to the core clinical summary.
Conclusion: Patients were able to use SMS services responsibly and found automation of prescription ordering particularly useful. Service utilisation was modest and did not adversely impact on the workload of general practitioners (GPs) or their staff.