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86% of Diabetes Patients Change Their Behaviors After Receiving Text Messages

A new study out of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia shows – once again – how text messages can inspire people to change their behaviors.

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, diabetes educator Janice Miller wanted to explore how text messages might help a group of patients with uncontrolled diabetes. She authored a study that sent educational texts to 20 diabetes patients, encouraging them to “eat healthfully, exercise, and to make an appointment for a retinopathy exam.” The messages were broadcast three times a week, over a three month period.

The results were quite frankly astounding: 86% of patients made changes in their food choices. Because of the reminder texts, the vast majority of the patients started eating more healthfully, the first step towards taking control of their blood sugars. And more than half (57%) increased their physical activity. Yes, the text messages even got people to exercise more.

“I genuinely believe that text messages that are simple, short, and easy to read can influence increased healthful behaviors.”
– Nalini Saligram

A few other impressive statistics:

  • Almost three quarters of the patients showed improved adherence to their medication schedules
  • 51% increased their glucose monitoring.
  • 55 percent of patients made appointments to have a retinopathy exam – an 83% increase over pre-study levels.

According to the Inquirer, “patients praised the ‘frequent reminders to take care of my diabetes’ and reported that they ‘learned information I would never have sought out in a book.’”

Multiple Studies Support the Power of Text Messages

The Inquirer article notes a number of other studies that show how text messaging can help diabetes patients. A massive million-person study in India saw 40% more improvement in people who received text messages than in a control group. A study out of the University of Chicago showed an 8.8% drop in the health care costs for text message recipients.

Nalini Saligram, who ran the text messaging study in India, praised the power of the humble SMS: “I genuinely believe that text messages that are simple, short, and easy to read can influence increased healthful behaviors.”

 

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