Objective: This study critically evaluates a new method of collecting frequent data using mobile phones and text messages. Fluctuating conditions such as low back pain (LBP) need frequent monitoring to describe the clinical course in detail and to account for individual and subgroup variations.
Study design and setting: In this multicentre prospective observational study, 262 subjects with nonspecific LBP were followed with weekly text messages for 6 months, with the question "How many days this previous week has your low back pain been bothersome?" The text replies were instantly recorded in a data file to be merged with baseline and follow up data (age, gender, pain intensity, duration, and self- rated health) collected through ordinary questionnaires. The response rate, user-friendliness, and compliance of this method were evaluated.
Results: The mean response rate for the text messages throughout the study was 82.5% and was unaffected by season. The method was found to be user friendly. Dropout was not affected by age and gender, but compliance was possibly somewhat affected by outcome.
Conclusion: Weekly text messages are a useful method of data collection to examine the clinical course of LBP in the primary care sector.
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