Technology Tuesdays: Text2Enroll? New Study Shows Texting Health information Is Effective

By Guest Blogger

This blog entry is part of Enroll America’s Technology Tuesdays blog series.

Buzz, buzz – the sound of an incoming text message. If you’re anything like us, then you’re more likely to read a text message within a few seconds of getting it than you are to read an email or check a voicemail. According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 83 percent of American adults own a cell phone, and nearly three-quarters of them (73 percent) send or receive text messages. Texting is now one of the most popular ways we receive information from friends and family—why not tap into this new medium to deliver health information?

In a blog earlier this fall, we discussed the importance of using smart phone technology in health care enrollment systems, as well as the commonplace use of texting campaigns in the marketing world to deliver messages to consumers. An exciting free text messaging service, text4baby, is proving that texting campaigns can also be very effective in delivering high-quality health information and motivating individuals to make positive health decisions. Text4baby was launched last year by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB), in collaboration with partners from the private sector and the federal government, to help pregnant women and new moms get information about their health and giving their babies a healthy start. Based on their due date and child’s development, women receive three texts a week with information and guidance on how to stay healthy and care for their baby.

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A new study from researchers at the University of California San Diego and the National Latino Research Center (NLRC), the first to examine the results of text4baby, indicates that the service is working. The study, which was conducted among users in San Diego County, reports that not only were women who had subscribed to the service highly satisfied with it, they also demonstrated an “increase in health knowledge, improved interaction with healthcare providers, improved adherence to appointments and immunizations, and increased access to health resources.” These results were particularly notable among uninsured women. Over 80 percent of the women in the sample reported an annual income below $40,000, and two-thirds were either uninsured or enrolled in Medicaid. Of those who were uninsured, over half were motivated to call a phone number provided through the service to get more information. Text4baby is also available in Spanish, and the study found that Spanish-speaking women reported even higher satisfaction with the service than English-speaking women. 

This research, which only begins to scratch the surface of what we’re likely to learn in an upcoming national evaluation of the program, suggests that texting services like text4baby can play an important role both in health coverage outreach and in ongoing communications with enrollees. Texting services have the potential to deliver targeted outreach and enrollment information, and this new research suggests that people who receive the texts will actually be motivated to seek more information. Once someone is enrolled in coverage, texts could also help remind enrollees when to pay premiums, renew coverage, or update account information to ensure that they stay enrolled. As we begin to plan and coordinate the significant outreach necessary to motivate as many as 40 million individuals to enroll in health coverage beginning in 2013, text messaging can clearly play a crucial role. It’s not too early to start exploring the potential of “text2enroll.”


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