International Stroke Conference 2012: Service encourages teens to text health-related questions

March 1, 2012

A text messaging service for teens attending the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center (MSAHC) in New York, enables them to ask confidential questions, sign up for birth-control reminders, and receive weekly 'healthbytes' of health-based advice.

A text messaging service for teens attending the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center (MSAHC) in New York, enables them to ask confidential questions, sign up for birth-control reminders, and receive weekly 'healthbytes' of health-based advice.

Katie Malbon MD, assistant professor, adolescent medicine, department of pediatrics, MSAHC, told attendees at the Mobile Healthcare Communications 2012: Case Studies and Roundtables, hosted by Business Development Institute, in New York City, that she recognized that there was a need for a text-based system of health and education information for the teenage group.

The text-based system, Text in the City, was launched January 2010 at MSAHC, a free and confidential clinic serving thousands of young people, mostly women, from East Harlem and the South Bronx. At the time, technology data showed that 88% of teens used cell phones for texting, with a typical American teen texting up to 1,500 messages a month, with a large portion texting daily. She then developed this service where she encouraged adolescents to ask health-related questions through texting. Many of the questions she received were related to sexual health and birth control.

Approximately 40% of the birth-control questions are related to use and effectiveness. The information is confidential and patients are asked to delete the messages after reading or taking action. Patients can also opt-out at any time. "Adolescence is a time when health education is paramount; the problem lies in access to reliable, trustworthy health education," Dr Malbon said. "Text in the City aims to facilitate this access by providing an anonymous, confidential, and personal link to a healthcare provider and so make that adolescent feel more connected to their 'health home' and more engaged in their own healthcare." Seventy percent of users found the service extremely useful and extremely easy to use, and 36% had used the service more than 6 times.

Dr Malbon is currently servicing 230 patients in a pilot study, while she monitors the growth of the program. She finds that a tight budget is a major obstacle for this non-profit program. For more information follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/textinthecityNY/ or the MSAHC at bit.ly/crcFlr. You also can follow Formulary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/formulary_news/.