In India, the exponential growth in mobile phone use in recent years has generated great interest in the devices' potential benefit as a health care tool. In the current study, the researchers used mobile phone reminders to encourage adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) among HIV-positive patients in a Bangalore tertiary hospital's infectious-disease clinic.
Between March and June 2010, 139 HIV-positive adults who had been taking regular ART for at least one month received weekly reminders about treatment adherence. The reminders were a weekly interactive call and a noninteractive neutral pictorial short message service (SMS).
Following four weeks of the intervention, interviews were conducted to learn participants' perceptions regarding preference, usefulness, potential stigma, and privacy concerns. Eighty-nine percent of participants were urban, and 85 percent had received at least a secondary education.
Of 744 calls made during the intervention, 545 (76 percent) were received by patients. All patients received the weekly SMS reminder. One month later, 90 percent said the reminders were helpful, and they did not feel their privacy was violated.
Most patients (87 percent) preferred the telephone call reminders; 11 percent preferred the SMS reminders alone. Fifteen percent never viewed any SMS reminders; only 59 percent viewed them all. Some patients said another person had inadvertently received their reminder call (20 percent) or SMS (13 percent); despite this, participants "denied any discomfort or stigma."
"Mobile phone interventions are an acceptable way of supporting adherence in this setting," the authors concluded. "Voice calls rather than SMSs alone seem to be preferred as reminders. Further research to study the influence of this intervention on adherence and health maintenance is warranted."
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