andre blackman was our guest on the last cohealth tweet chat (recap), and he answered most of our questions about how employee wellness efforts can incorporate mobile health (mhealth) solutions. a few questions from the cohealth community were left dangling, so andre’s answered them here.
how do you track changes in behavior as a result of short message service (AKA text) health interventions?
ab: tracking changes with SMS will depend on what sort of behavior change you’re measuring. something such as medical adherence may take some time, and i believe that’s something that can be tracked through a feedback module as well as pre- and post-data comparison. my delicious account has relevant studies and information on behavior change with mhealth.
there are people who don’t text or use smartphones. must we support all audiences?
ab: we’re hardly in a time where anything is a must, especially related to mhealth. knowing who you’re trying to reach will help you decide on whether you should look into SMS-based or mobile apps.
as we move from Gen X and Gen Y to baby boomers, how effective is SMS?
ab: the age of those individuals who are using mobile phones to communicate continues to rise, especially as boomers have grandchildren and want to stay in touch. it’s similar to what we’ve seen with social networking sites. mobile’s being integrated into our society—and although there may be younger natives to the platforms, older adults are using these tools.
would an example of two-way SMS be texting with a personal coach?
ab: that would be a great example. coaching and advice on specific topics (e.g., sexual health for teens) are great uses for two-way SMS/texting. you can get reminders, personalized feedback, etc.
with mobile wellness sites that organizations build, is it important to remove the password so families can easily access?
ab: having fewer access barriers is important in the mobile world. you want consumers to easily use the information. privacy restrictions and basic caution aside, allowing members of the family to access relevant health information without passwords can be very helpful in allowing for great adoption. when you start looking at confidential personal health information/records? that may be an area to have more restriction.
what about the adopt and drop rates of app usage? how do we hook people and keep them?
ab: you need to do your homework about the types of people you’re looking to use your mobile tool. we’re also living in the days of co-creation, where instead of making assumptions, we can go ahead and ask for beta feedback from potential users. that way, we can get an idea of what actually works rather than relying on the “see what sticks” method. user interface design and usability are things to really consider.
we’re just diving into mobile. what are the easiest tools and apps for us to use?
ab: i’d suggest looking at case studies and examples of how it’s been done already for the health world. for example, look at the CDC example about how to set up a text messaging campaign. get a sense of the why first. then you can start to look at the tools to get it done.