Cincinnati Children’s Testing Text Messaging To Help Patients Successfully Self-Manage Chronic Disease

Friday, February 05, 2010

In an age of genetics and proteomics, something as a simple as a text message could be just as important as these advanced medical sciences to improving a patient’s health. At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, researchers are testing that theory on teenagers with asthma.

The researchers are studying whether text messages might help teens with asthma remember when to take their controller medications. The teens participating in the study have designed the reminder messages, which not only may prompt them to take medications but also may remind them of a specific treatment or an appointment, or may be motivational or inquire about symptoms. Doctors and their teen patients will use a web-based system, designed by CMSText, to schedule recurring and one-time text messages to teens’ mobile phones.

“Text messaging is extremely popular with teenagers and an effective way to communicate with them because they read and pay attention to text messages,” said Maria Britto, MD, a physician in Cincinnati Children’s division of Adolescent Medicine. “As teens with chronic conditions get older and become more independent of their parents’ oversight, we want to know whether text messages are good way to remind them to take medications and improve their quality of life.”

Teens are usually less adept at managing chronic illness and adhering to treatment plans than are younger children with the assistance of their parents, potentially leading to worsened health outcomes and higher health care costs. But teens typically are early adopters of technology, and text messages “are integral in today’s teen culture,” according to Dr. Britto, who also is assistant vice president, Chronic Care Systems, and director of the Center for Innovation in Chronic Disease Care at Cincinnati Children’s.

Dr. Britto and her colleagues will recruit into the study approximately 230 individuals between the ages of 12 and 22 who have asthma. Teens will be assigned randomly to either receive or not receive text messages for three months, after which they will switch groups. Participants also will complete a quality of life survey. Electronic monitoring will be used to record and store data concerning adherence to asthma medications. The researchers expect that it will take approximately two years to conduct the study and analyze the data.

Successful self-management of chronic illness by patients and their families is a major health challenge in pediatric medicine, according to Dennis Drotar, PhD, director of the Center for the Promotion of Treatment Adherence and Self Management at Cincinnati Children’s, who is co-investigator in the study. “Successful self management could be looked at as the next frontier of pediatric medicine and the next critical step for improving outcomes. Medical science is already addressing the other critical areas by advancing its knowledge of genetics, developing better medicines and implementing quality initiatives that make health care more effective.”

The researchers are recruiting volunteers from the medical center’s Teen Health Center. If new approaches work for asthma patients, they should also be effective for patients with other chronic conditions, according to Dr. Britto.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of 10 children’s hospitals in the United States to make the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Reports 2009-10 Americas Best Children’s Hospitals issue. It is #1 ranked for digestive disorders and is also highly ranked for its expertise in respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care, neurosurgery, diabetes, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

President Barack Obama in June 2009 cited Cincinnati Children’s as an island of excellence in health care. For its achievements in transforming health care, Cincinnati Children’s is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656,