Healthcare via cell phones: a systematic review

Telemed J E Health. 2009 Apr;15(3):231-40. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2008.0099.


Regular care and informational support are helpful in improving disease-related health outcomes. Communication technologies can help in providing such care and support. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the empirical evidence related to the role of cell phones and text messaging interventions in improving health outcomes and processes of care. Scientific literature was searched to identify controlled studies evaluating cell phone voice and text message interventions to provide care and disease management support. Searches identified 25 studies that evaluated cell phone voice and text messaging interventions, with 20 randomized controlled trials and 5 controlled studies. Nineteen studies assessed outcomes of care and six assessed processes of care. Selected studies included 38,060 participants with 10,374 adults and 27,686 children. They covered 12 clinical areas and took place in 13 countries. Frequency of message delivery ranged from 5 times per day for diabetes and smoking cessation support to once a week for advice on how to overcome barriers and maintain regular physical activity. Significant improvements were noted in compliance with medicine taking, asthma symptoms, HbA1C, stress levels, smoking quit rates, and self-efficacy. Process improvements were reported in lower failed appointments, quicker diagnosis and treatment, and improved teaching and training. Cost per text message was provided by two studies. The findings that enhancing standard care with reminders, disease monitoring and management, and education through cell phone voice and short message service can help improve health outcomes and care processes have implications for both patients and providers.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Disease Management*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Self Care
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation*