Using text message reminders in health care services: A narrative literature review

Internet Interv. 2018 Jun 21:13:82-104. doi: 10.1016/j.invent.2018.06.002. eCollection 2018 Sep.


Introduction: Despite the extensive use of mHealth behavior change interventions, questions remain about the use of technology-based reminders in delivering health care services. Text messaging, or short message service (SMS), is one reminder method that has been extensively researched. Most SMS-reminder research is distributed across a range of health care outcomes. The aim of this article is to systematically review the aggregate impact of these reminders on overall health care outcomes.

Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted and yielded 2316 articles. Studies were included if they used SMS reminders to support patient health care outcomes. Study methodology was aligned with the PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews.

Results: Following screening, 162 articles met inclusion criteria. Of these studies, 93 investigated medical compliance reminders and 56 investigated appointment reminders. The review found that nearly all the SMS-reminder studies helped improve patient medical compliance and appointment reminders. Additionally, researchers reported numerous benefits from using SMS reminders, including ease of use, relative inexpensiveness, and rapid and automated message delivery. Minimal risks were reported and most participants found the reminders to be acceptable.

Discussion: Text messages appear to be an effective reminder mechanism to promote improved patient appointment and medical compliance. Reminders should continue to be evaluated and improved to determine the most effective timing and frequency of messages for improving outcomes.

Keywords: Health care; Reminders; SMS; Text message; mHealth.

Publication types

  • Review