Texting for health, or mobile campaigns for health, can be great ways to reach the unreachable to bring about the unthinkable. These campaigns, like so many other things, however, require much thought and planning, and should not be developed in a flash like texting from behind the wheel of your car. Coincidentally, texting from behind the wheel of your car is never recommended under any circumstances. So, before you drive your communications campaign into that ditch of tired messages and media, here are some tips to keep your campaign in the fast lane and passing by that slow lane of poor health.
Get to know your user and interact with them. First off, there are plenty of sources out there that can tell you who’s using what device, when, for what purpose and how often. Those data are important, but when it comes to developing a text application and campaign for a tailored purpose, you need to know more about your user, their interests and their preferences. Be sure to capture the right data (the data you really need) at the beginning. And, as your campaign begins, be sure that information flow continues to go both ways. Bi-directional sharing, as long as it isn’t overly burdensome is really key. And, not just for sharing preferences. It’s a great way to check in, get feedback and figure out what’s working and not working for your campaign.
Make the user want to take action. While many campaigns can focus on education as the key goal, at the end of the day, many stop there because we forget that education is only effective if people are taking action based on that knowledge you are imparting to them. We are educating for action. So, developing a mobile campaign for HIV patients to remind them about the importance of adhering to medication and getting to the doctor is great. But, try to be more inventive. Link the mobile campaign to an actual care management function with providers. Be sure you have the capability to remind patients of appointments and to take medications, but also be sure community health workers get alerts when appointments are missed or medications aren’t picked up at the pharmacy. It will require more work with programs experts and providers, and maybe a little more investment in technical capabilities, but the outcomes in the long-run will be far better.
It takes a village. Using mobile technology as a means to promote health may still seem new and unfamiliar to many. In addition, lots of people regard their health as something really personal and important. So, when we are developing new mobile campaigns and programs, it is critical to involve many different individuals and groups in planning and adopting new technology to promote health. You’ll need parents and families endorsing the campaign. Local leaders, including physicians and other providers, can be powerful voices of support when they see the value in new tools to advance the health of a community. And, leaders from within the community such as clergy, teachers and local elected officials can also be powerful voices to educate and engage. Not to mention, having creative, innovative technology experts will be fundamental to any budding mobile campaign. You wanna start it right.
So, get to know your user, inspire them to act and build a coalition around your new campaign. Taking these steps in your careful planning could mean all the difference between a campaign that fades quickly and a campaign that has long-term, lasting value for communities and health. Just make sure someone doesn’t run over those communities because they are texting while driving.