Researchers from the University of Sydney Medical School looked into the effects of mobile apps and automated text messages in patients' blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels. Patients who received daily text messages showed health improvements in a week's time.
Led by associate professor Clara Chow, the research team looked into 700 patients with heart disease. The patients received about four automated text messages each week in a span of six months. These short, simple messages are mostly encouraging. They are friendly and personalized information and reminders about making life changes following a heart attack or illness.
"In our fast-paced society, patients are leaving hospitals so quickly now after suffering a heart attack," said Chow, who also works as the acting director of George Institute for Global Health's cardiovascular division. The influx of information given in a hospital setting often make patients muddled, she explained.
Taking into account a patient's health profile, the messages were personalized and sent with the patient's name. Simple and welcoming dieting tips were sent to overweight patients while quitting tips were given to those who struggle with nicotine addiction.
The researchers used a control group (those who didn't receive text messages) and a research group (those who received text messages) to compare their findings. At the end of the study, the research group showed great improvement after six months. The levels of "bad" cholesterol and blood pressure dropped. They also showed a decrease in the body mass index.
The research team noted 53 percent were smokers in both groups. When the study ended, the number of smokers in the text message group dropped to 26 percent. While there is a decrease in the control group, the smokers are still at 43 percent.
Dr. Zubin Eapin from the Duke Medical Center in North Carolina supported the study by saying technology can help in assisting patients make difficult lifestyle changes.
"Creating and sustaining long-term behavior change is difficult in all aspects of life, and doing what it takes to be healthy is no exception," said Eapin. American Heart Association's former president Dr. Elliott Antman hailed the study as excellent and expressed how we can use technology to alter behavior.
While there are many health-related apps available, very few of which have undergone an in-depth evaluation in a real-life setting. Antman added that while the study lasted for only half a year, further studies and evaluation need to be done to see its sustainability.