Designing Patient-Centered Text Messaging Interventions for Increasing Physical Activity Among Participants With Type 2 Diabetes: Qualitative Results From the Text to Move Intervention

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2017 Apr 24;5(4):e54. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.6666.


Background: Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a disease affecting approximately 29.1 million people in the United States, and an additional 86 million adults have prediabetes. Diabetes self-management education, a complex health intervention composed of 7 behaviors, is effective at improving self-care behaviors and glycemic control. Studies have employed text messages for education, reminders, and motivational messaging that can serve as "cues to action," aiming to improve glucose monitoring, self-care behaviors, appointment attendance, and medication adherence.

Objectives: The Text to Move (TTM) study was a 6-month 2-parallel group randomized controlled trial of individuals with T2DM to increase physical activity, measured by a pedometer. The intervention arm received text messages twice daily for 6 months that were tailored to the participant's stage of behavior change as defined by the transtheoretical model of behavior change.

Methods: We assessed participants' attitudes regarding their experience with text messaging, focusing on perceived barriers and facilitators, through two focus groups and telephone interviews. All interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed using a grounded theory approach.

Results: The response rate was 67% (31/46 participants). The average age was 51.4 years and 61% (19/31 participants) were male. The majority of individuals were English speakers and married, had completed at least 12th grade and approximately half of the participants were employed full-time. Overall, participants were satisfied with the TTM program and recalled the text messages as educational, informational, and motivational. Program involvement increased the sense of connection with their health care center. The wearing of pedometers and daily step count information served as motivational reminders and created a sense of accountability through the sentinel effect. However, there was frustration concerning the automation of the text message program, including the repetitiveness, predictability of text time delivery, and lack of customization and interactivity of text message content. Participants recommended personalization of texting frequency as well as more contact time with personnel for a stronger sense of support, including greater surveillance and feedback based on their own results and comparison to other participants.

Conclusions: Participants in a theory-based text messaging intervention identified key facilitators and barriers to program efficacy that should be incorporated into future texting interventions to optimize participant satisfaction and outcomes.

Trial registration: NCT01569243; (Archived by Webcite at

Keywords: diabetes mellitus, type 2; exercise; qualitative research; text messaging.

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