One thing’s for sure in today’s world: There’s no shortage of ways to communicate.
But can the new age of communications help in the treatment of rheumatic patients, who are frequently older and, either due to a generation gap or disease-related physical limitations, might find text-messaging not-so-LOL?
A recent study out of the United Kingdom yields some findings that suggest that e-mailing and text messaging might actually have a place in treating people with rheumatic disorders.
In the study—dubbed “Not 2 old 2 TXT”—researchers surveyed 112 rheumatology patients in Hertfordshire, a county north of London.1 The survey was meant to gauge their current use of the Internet, e-mail, and text messaging and to assess their willingness to receive electronic reminders—for things like appointments and medication reminders—in the future.
They found that up to age 55, more than 90% of the patients accessed the web and sent or received text messages at least once a week. This fell to 70% for patients 55 to 64 years old, and to less than 50% for patients over 65.
“So up to age 65, a high proportion of the clinical population is already using the Internet and mobile phones,” says lead author Lyndsay Hughes, MBPsS, lecturer in health psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. She was at the Centre for Lifespan and Chronic Illness Research, University of Hertfordshire at the time of the study.
She notes that the proportion of the rheumatology patients using the technology within each age group is no different than the percentages in the general population. Also, limitations on their physical abilities didn’t appear to be a deterrent to the use of the technology, she says.
“It has been assumed that the disability that these patients face because of their illness would be a barrier to using technology,” Dr. Hughes says. “However, although a small number of patients reported experiencing problems using a computer mouse and pressing the small buttons on a mobile phone, they managed to overcome these barriers and continue to use the technology.”
Just one patient said that they didn’t use computers because of disease-related constraints, but no one reported not using cell phones because of them.
More than half—56%—of the patients with an e-mail address, and 48% of patients with a mobile phone, said they’d be willing to receive an appointment reminder. That came out to 44% of all the patients, because so many of them are using the technology already. But just 26% percent said they’d be willing to get a reminder to take their medication via either e-mail or text message.