March 27, 2006

Who Said Cell Phones Were Bad For Us?

It's interesting to see how Internet and cell phone technology keeps evolving. Innovations in these two essential communications outlets have always been under scrutiny, and a lot of "bad news" usually emerges about the health risks of phones, or prolonged internet use. Of course these are legitimate concerns, but it's nice to hear about all the good that comes from cell phones and the Internet.

The Economist had an interesting article highlighting a study that looks at the ways the health industry is using text messaging for medical purposes. The goal is three-fold: "efficiency gains; public-health gains; and direct benefits to patients by incorporating text-messaging into treatment regimes." Whether its a reminder for your doctor's appointment, when to take your medication, or when to administer your insulin injection, a simple text message can make a big difference in some people's busy lives. Other messages have a more preventative approach, seeking to dissmenate public health information, such as reminders for vaccinations.

While I definitely see this as beneficial, how far will these "reminders" go? Are we going to be bombarded with messages about not eating junk food, getting our shots, and having our cavities fixed? Don't these outlets usually get abused by corporations for advertising purposes? Trust me, the last thing I want to get is a txt telling me to buy this or that kind of aspirin or toothpaste.

England has experimented with this new technology:
Several trials carried out in England have found that the use of text-messaging reminders reduces the number of missed appointments with family doctors by 26-39%, for example, and the number of missed hospital appointments by 33-50%. If such schemes were rolled out nationally, this would translate into annual savings of £256m-364m.
In some developing coutries, where more and more people have access to cell phones, "health" messages have been particularly helpful:
Text messages have been used in India to inform people about the World Health Organisation's strategy to control tuberculosis, for example, and in Kenya, Nigeria and Mali to provide information about HIV and malaria. In Iraq, text messages were used to support a campaign to vaccinate nearly 5m children against polio.
If this trend spreads, I presume more such reminders, not related to health will pour into my cell phone. "Pay your credit card bill; Take out the trash; Cut the grass; Drink Coke."

Now THAT would be something!

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At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a service out there where you can schedule reminders to your mobile phone or any other phone as either text messages or text-to-speech. Its called Now that is something that may be useful.


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