Objectives: To assess the feasibility of engaging adults with diabetes in self management behaviors between clinic visits by using cell phone text messaging to provide blood sugar measurement prompts and appointment reminders.
Study design: Quasi-experimental pilot among adult diabetic patients with cell phones who receive regular care at a federally qualified community health center in Denver, Colorado, which serves a population that is predominantly either uninsured (41%) or on Medicaid or Medicare (56%).
Methods: Patients (N = 47) received text message prompts over a 3-month period. Blood sugar readings were requested 3 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Reminders were sent 7, 3, and 1 day(s) before each scheduled appointment. Acknowledgments were returned for all patient-sent messages. Focus groups were conducted in English and Spanish with selected patients (n = 8).
Results: Patients of all ages were active participants. Correctly formatted responses were received for 67.3% of 1585 prompts. More than three-fourths (79%) of the cohort responded to more than 50% of their prompts. The appointment analysis was underpowered to detect significant changes in attendance. Participants reported increased social support, feelings that the program "made them accountable," and increased awareness of health information. Two-thirds (66%) of patients provided glucose readings when prompted during the study, compared with 12% at 2 preceding clinic visits.
Conclusions: For certain patients, cell phone-based text messaging may enhance chronic disease management support and patient-provider communications beyond the clinic setting.