Medicine 2.0 (2012): SMS based systems and smoking cessation

Panel Discussion on Texting 4 Health Applications. The panel consisted on Robyn Whittaker, Caroline Free, Lorien Abroms and Michele Ybarra. All of these women had roles in developing SMS-based systems to help people quit smoking. Many of them presented outcomes data. The SMS-based systems consistently had twice the cessation rate of controls.
The programs all worked basically the same:
  • Go to the website
  • Sign in with cell phone number and details about your smoking history
  • Pick a quit date
  • Text-messages are sent to the user. A few before the quit date, a bunch on and around the quit date and then fewer as the patient gets further down the road.
Some programs are one way from the program to the participant. More sophisticated programs allow the user to text back with commands. For example texting “Crave” will result in the user getting a tip or a game get through the crave. Other options include:
  • STATS: to receive information on how much money you have saved by quitting
  • SMOKED: to tell the system that you have smoked. This will change the algorithm to give the her information to get back on the wagon
  • REASONS: to get health advantages to quitting
One of the themes I noted at Med 2.0 was how powerful smartphones are. They are the most effective tool for motivating or tracking or educating patients. This session made me see that much of the power is due to the fact that they are always with us and always connected, and not related to their advanced processors or sensors.
Joel Topf, MD
eAJKD advisory board member

Check out all of eAJKD’s coverage of Medicine 2.0 here.

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