The role of short messaging service in supporting the delivery of healthcare: An umbrella systematic review

Health Informatics J. 2016 Jun;22(2):140-50. doi: 10.1177/1460458214540908. Epub 2014 Jul 18.


Short messaging service (SMS) messages may present a convenient and cost-effective method to support healthcare interventions. This work assesses the effects of short messaging service on various healthcare interventions found in systematic reviews. The search strategy was based on two key concepts: short messaging service and healthcare delivery. The initial search was conducted in December 2012 and was updated in June 2013. Of the 550 identified references, 13 systematic reviews met the inclusion criteria, of which 8 were published in peer-reviewed journals and 5 were retrieved from the Cochrane library. Data analysis shows that low to moderate research evidence exists on the benefits of short messaging service interventions for appointment reminders, promoting health in developing countries and preventive healthcare. In many interventions, however, there were a few studies that were of high quality, and most of the studies were rated from low to moderate quality or had no rating at all. Healthcare organizations, policy makers, or clinicians using short messaging service messages to support healthcare interventions should (1) implement interventions that have been found to work in healthcare settings, (2) continue evaluating short messaging service interventions that have not been adequately assessed, and (3) improve collaboration between various healthcare entities to develop studies targeted at specific populations to evaluate the long-term impact of short messaging service on healthcare outcomes.

Keywords: assistive technologies; ehealth; healthcare policy; mobile health; organizational change and information technology.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Appointments and Schedules
  • Cell Phone*
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Developing Countries
  • Humans
  • Self-Help Devices*
  • Text Messaging / statistics & numerical data*