Great article by Donald McNeil in the NYT summarizing the recent Lancet manuscript on the effects of SMS advice to rural nurses.
Phone Messages Improve Care, Study Finds
Using cellphones to broadcast text messages reminding health workers in Kenya how to treat children’s malaria increased the number of cases handled correctly, a new study has found.
The study, done by researchers from Oxford and the Kenya Medical Research Institute and published recently in The Lancet, involved 119 health workers who saw 2,269 children with malaria symptoms. The workers randomly chosen to receive twice-a-day reminders handled 24 percent more cases correctly. Six months later, they were still better at it.
Simple cellphones have penetrated much of Africa, reaching areas that never had landlines because of the expense of stringing wires and the widespread theft of copper used to make them.
The messages reminded workers of basics like when to test and how to prescribe weight-based dosages. A typical one read: “Advise mother to finish all AL doses over 3 days even if the child feels better after a few doses! Quote: ‘A smile you sent will always return.’ ” (AL is artemether-lumefantrine, the standard treatment. Each 160-character message included an inspirational quote.)
Since each text cost less than a penny, every nurse in rural Kenya could get reminders for $39,000, the study said. That is far cheaper than sending trainers or brochures, neither of which improved care much, the authors said.