Background: Strong international commitment and the widespread use of antiretroviral therapy have led to higher longevity for people living with human immune deficiency virus (HIV). Text messaging interventions have been shown to improve health outcomes in people living with HIV. The objectives of this overview were to: map the state of the evidence of text messaging interventions, identify knowledge gaps, and develop a framework for the transfer of evidence to other chronic diseases.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of systematic reviews on text messaging interventions to improve health or health related outcomes. We conducted a comprehensive search of PubMed, EMBASE (Exerpta Medica Database), CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), PsycINFO, Web of Science (WoS) and the Cochrane Library on the 17th April 2014. Screening, data extraction and assessment of methodological quality were done in duplicate. Our findings were used to develop a conceptual framework for transfer.
Results: Our search identified 135 potential systematic reviews of which nine were included, reporting on 37 source studies, conducted in 19 different countries. Seven of nine (77.7%) of these reviews were high quality. There was some evidence for text messaging as a tool to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy. Text messages also improved attendance at appointments and behaviour change outcomes. The findings were inconclusive for self-management of illness, treatment of tuberculosis and communicating results of medical investigations. The geographical distribution of text messaging research was limited to specific regions of the world. Prominent knowledge gaps included the absence of data on long term outcomes, patient satisfaction, and economic evaluations. The included reviews also identified methodological limitations in many of the primary studies.
Conclusions: Global evidence supports the use of text messaging as a tool to improve adherence to medication and attendance at scheduled appointments. Given the similarities between HIV and other chronic diseases (long-term medications, life-long care, strong link to behaviour and the need for home-based support) evidence from HIV may be transferred to these diseases using our proposed framework by integration of HIV and chronic disease services or direct transfer.