Most of the mHealth buzz centers around smartphones and tablets – wireless access to imaging and medical records, apps for evidence based practice and many other advancements that are revolutionizing developed health systems. It’s easy, however, to overlook the potential that traditional cell phones have in the context of mHealth. In rural areas and developing countries especially, health care infrastructure and access to care remain extremely limited, but SMS text messaging is quickly becoming an effective way to reach these populations. Programs to take advantage of SMS to improve health care access have recently started to gain momentum – our recent post highlights some of these campaigns in South Africa.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the CDC are partnering to pilot a program that uses texting to help patients understand risk factors for diabetes and connect them with appropriate resources. People can answer a short series of lifestyle/medical and family history questions via text, and then based on their apparent risk for diabetes, they get information on clinics, physicians, or even online forums about diabetes prevention.

While texting obviously cannot take the place of an actual assessment by health care professionals, this service is an inexpensive and effective way to raise awareness about risk factors for diabetes among people who do not have adequate access to screening measures. Using texting as opposed to smartphone apps allows for interaction with a much larger population, especially those in rural areas that are at a higher risk for developing chronic conditions.

As the diabetes epidemic grows and our health care costs continue to skyrocket, mHealth can play a huge role in preventing those at risk from developing debilitating and costly complications of diabetes. Smartphones and tablets may be the cutting edge of mHealth advancements, but programs that harness the leverage of SMS could very well be the most cost-effective and efficient way to improve access to healthcare on a global scale.

Source: Health IT Buzz