Background: The widespread and low cost of mobile phones and the convenience of short message service (SMS) text messaging suggest potential suitability for use with alternative strategies for supporting retention in care and adherence to the treatment of various chronic diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis (TB). Despite the growing body of literature reporting positive outcomes of SMS text message-based communication with patients, there is yet very little research about the integration of communication technologies and electronic medical records or electronic patient tracking systems.
Objective: To design, develop, and implement an integrated mobile phone text messaging system used to follow up with patients with HIV and TB in treatment in Mozambique.
Methods: Following the design science research methodology, we developed a Web-based system that provides support to patients. A case study involving three health care sites in Mozambique was a basis for discussing design issues for this kind of system. We used brainstorming techniques to solicit usability requirements, focus group meetings to discuss and define system architecture, and prototyping to test in real environments and to improve the system.
Results: We found six sets of system requirements that need to be addressed for success: data collection, telecommunication costs, privacy and data security, text message content, connectivity, and system scalability. A text messaging system was designed and implemented in three health facilities. These sites feed data into a central data repository, which can be used for analysis of operations and decision support. Based on the treatment schedule, the system automatically sent SMS text message appointment reminders, medication reminders, as well as motivational and educational messages to patients enrolled in antiretroviral therapy and TB treatment programs.
Conclusions: We successfully defined the requirements for, designed, and implemented a mobile phone text messaging system to support HIV and TB treatments. Implementation of this system could improve patients' self-management skills and strengthen communication between patients and health care providers.
Toronto, Canada: J M I R Publications, Inc. , 2015. Vol. 3, no 1, e26
Mobile health, text messaging, SMS system, patient management, design science research, Mozambique