David Bangsberg receives support from the National Institutes of Health (RO-1 MH54907, K-24 MH87227). Jessica Haberer receives support from the National Institutes of Health (K23 MH087228). Norma Ware receives support from the National Institute of Health R21 MH085550, K24 MH090894-01). Mark Siedner receives additional support from the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Fogarty International Center (R24 TW007988). The Redcap database tool is provided by the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research with NIH grant support (1 UL1 RR024975).
Telecommunication in medicine, Text messaging (Cell phone systems), HIV infections -- Uganda -- Treatment, HIV infected persons -- Counseling of -- Technological innovations
Background: Patient-provider communication is a major challenge in resource-limited settings with large catchment areas. Though mobile phone usership increased 20-fold in Africa over the past decade, little is known about acceptability of, perceptions about disclosure and confidentiality, and preferences for cell phone communication of health information in the region.
Methods: We performed structured interviews of fifty patients at the Immune Suppression Syndrome clinic in Mbarara, Uganda to assess four domains of health-related communication: a) cell phone use practices and literacy, b) preferences for laboratory results communication, c) privacy and confidentiality, and d) acceptability of and preferences for text messaging to notify patients of abnormal test results.
Results: Participants had a median of 38 years, were 56% female, and were residents of a large catchment area throughout southwestern Uganda. All participants expressed interest in a service to receive information about laboratory results by cell phone text message, stating benefits of increased awareness of their health and decreased transportation costs. Ninety percent reported that they would not be concerned for unintended disclosure. A minority additionally expressed concerns about difficulty interpreting messages, discouragement upon learning bad news, and technical issues. Though all respondents expressed interest in password protection of messages, there was also a strong desire for direct messages to limit misinterpretation of information.
Conclusions: Cell phone text messaging for communication of abnormal laboratory results is highly acceptable in this cohort of HIV-infected patients in rural Uganda. The feasibility of text messaging, including an optimal balance between privacy and comprehension, should be further studied.
A supplemental file containing the cell phone survey used in this research is attached below.
Note: At the time of writing, David Bangsberg was affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, and Ragon Institute.
Siedner et al.: High acceptability for cell phone text messages to improve communication of laboratory results with HIV-infected patients in rural Uganda: a cross-sectional survey study. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2012 12:56.