GP surgeries in Islington, London, are using SMS text messaging software from suppliers iPlato to promote its smoking cessation campaigns.
Islington practices using the iPlato text messaging system have reported patient response rates of 30%, compared to a response rate of 5% when they used letters.
The practices using the system have sent text messages to patients who smoke and have mobile numbers registered with surgeries and found that use of the SMS messages has been more effective than other methods of marketing the NHS campaign.
Charlotte Blyth, a practice manager at the Elizabeth Avenue Surgery, said: “We sent a text message to 200 patients telling them that we were updating their medical record and asked – ‘pls. text back current non smoker; smoker & are you ready to quit?’; any patients indicating that they were still smoking were invited for smoking cessation support.”
Blyth added: “Using letters and even calling up patients to invite them to the surgery is a huge drain on surgery resources and staff time. With the iPlato system we can contact hundreds of patients instantly without having to stuff a single envelope." She said that surgery staff "were amazed at the rapid response", with the majority of patients responding in minutes rather than the days taken to get a response from a latter.
The system works by sending out a text message asking chosen patients to text back their current smoking status. Patients who indicate that they are still smokers and trying to quit are then invited to smoking cessation clinics.
iPlato’s managing director, Tobias Alpsten, said: “Over the years we have seen surgeries use our text messaging system to develop a relationship with their patients. Being able to offer support to patients trying to quit smoking in a way that makes them feel comfortable has a great impact on the success of such campaigns.”
According to iPlato, approximately 39 people per 10,000 die of smoking related causes in Islington, a rate higher than other boroughs in North Central London and London as a whole. The company says that iPlato Patient Care Messaging clearly is an effective way of reducing these numbers.
David Thomas, head of information at Islington Primary Care Trust, said: “Text messaging has a huge role to play in the way surgeries communicate with their patients, the immediacy and convenience of this medium has been illustrated by the positive results experienced by many of our surgeries.”