Dr. Dyer began developing her pilot study after realizing how a simple reminder, in the form of a text message sent to her teenage patients, could positively impact their health. During the study, she not only sent personalized questions and reminders to patients about their medication, but friendly, supportive messages as well, leading to an increase in teens taking their medications.
“If adolescent diabetes patients do not adhere to their treatment and medication plan, they can have difficulty concentrating in school or functioning throughout the day,” said Dr. Dyer, also an assistant professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Excellent control and treatment can have a long term positive effect on a patient with diabetes.”
By texting her teenage patients, Dr. Dyer also found that she could have better relationships with them, and ultimately provide more personalized care.
“I think that texting allowed me to be more a part of my patients’ lives,” Dr. Dyer says. “I got to know them better this way than in a 10-minute office visit.”
Texting is a huge part of Dr. Dyer’s patients’ lives, and among all teens in this country. Texting has become the most preferred form of basic communication for teens - who now send an average of 50 text messages each day.* By harnessing this trend instead of shying away from it, experts like Dr. Dyer can help patients better manage chronic conditions like diabetes.
Teens like Kailyn Wallace can attest to how big of a role texting plays in her life, and her struggles with remembering to take her insulin amidst the demands of her hectic life. Wallace, who was involved in this study, hopes the idea of using text messages to help manage conditions like hers catches on with other doctors. She says that connection, however it happens, is important.
“I’m leaving for college soon, so I’m under a lot of stress and I think little reminders help,” Wallace says.
Due to the success of her study, Dr. Dyer has applied for an internal grant to test an iPhone application that she has developed on additional patients. This app will allow endocrinologists to send personalized, yet automated, texts to multiple patients at a specific time.
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*Teens, Cell Phones and Texting, Text Messaging Becomes Centerpiece Communication, Pew Internet & American Life Project, April 2010. Retrieved from: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1572/teens-cell-phones-text-messages
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