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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Sep 25 2011   6:03PM GMT

Text4Health HHS initiative to encourage texting in a healthcare setting

Posted by: RedaChouffani
DHHS, Health and Human Services, healthcare, HHS, mhealth, mobile health, SMS, Text messaging, text4health

On September 19, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new recommendations for its mhealth program, Text4Health. As HHS continues to recognize the significant role that smartphones are playing in the industry, and just how the much of the US population uses short text messaging (SMS) to communicate, the following is the list of timely recommendations that the task force officially suggested:

Recommendation 1: Facilitating Health Text Messaging Development. The Task Force recommends that HHS develop and host evidenced-informed health text message libraries to leverage HHS’ rich and scientifically based information.

Recommendation 2:  Research and Evaluation. The Task Force recommends that HHS develop further evidence on the effectiveness of health text messaging programs.

Recommendation 3: Partnerships among Federal Government Agencies and Non-Federal Organizations. The Task Force recommends HHS explore and develop partnerships to create, implement and disseminate health text messaging and mobile health (mHealth) programs.  It is further recommended that in FY2012, specific HHS staff persons (e.g., HHS mHealth lead) serve as main points of contacts to represent HHS in discussions of collaborations or partnerships with other stakeholders in the mHealth ecosystem

Recommendation 4: Coordination across HHS. The Task Force recommends that HHS form a mobile health (mHealth) community of practice, initially led by HHS staff in the Office of the Secretary, that meets regularly (e.g., monthly or quarterly) to discuss and coordinate mHealth activities, including health text messaging, across the Department.

Recommendation 5: Integration of Health Text Messaging/mHealth with other HHS Health Information Technology Priorities (e.g., Electronic Health Records, Cloud Computing, Health Games, etc.).  The Task Force recommends that HHS align health text messaging/mHealth activities with other HHS Health IT priorities.

Recommendation 6: Delineating Privacy/Security Issues. The Task Force recommends that HHS conduct further research into the privacy and security risks associated with text messaging of health information and establish guidelines for managing such privacy/security issues. Furthermore, mHealth issues should be discussed within the HHS Inter-Division Health IT Policy and Security Task Force.

Recommendation 7: Regulatory Issues. The Task Force recommends that relevant HHS agencies (FDA, NIH, AHRQ, ONC, etc.) conduct research on future trends of text messaging technologies and establish regulatory guidelines for these interactive systems that can be used in treating, curing, mitigating or preventing diseases or conditions.

As one quick read will tell you, these recommendations are significant. They will enable HHS to establish regulatory guidelines for interactive systems, and with the emerging ACOs and Medical Homes, where personal physicians and care givers will need to have effective ways to communicate with their patients, SMS will allow them to interact and inform patients adequately and efficiently. Privacy and security concerns will still need to be addressed, but this is a first step toward in the right direction.

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