An Interactive Message System

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Researchers in California designed a text messaging system for AYA survivors of childhood cancers in the greater Los Angeles area. They enlisted the collaboration of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Embedded Network Sensing (CENS). Established in 2002, CENS is a research enterprise led by UCLA in partnership with 5 other universities in southern California. “CENS explores the fundamental properties of embedded networked sensing systems to develop new technologies and investigate their role in health care and other systems education properties.”2

The researchers’ objectives for the pilot study were to “develop the text messaging system for sending programmed late-effect screening reminders and tailored suggestions for community resources; examine the acceptability, feasibility, and usability of the text messaging system for AYA survivors; and refine the text messaging system using the qualitative data collected for use in a future intervention study.”1

The two-way system allows clinicians to send programmed text messages to their patients, and to receive responses from them. The innovative internet interface facilitates many functions, including program enrollment. The system sends AYA survivors programmed reminders to schedule appointments for screening for late effects of their cancer treatment, and also sends reminders of the appointments.

Messages are customized to each survivor based on their treatment history and risks. For example, if a survivor had received a particular chemotherapy agent, the text message would remind the patient to also schedule appropriate tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) to check for treatment-related leukemia, and include the addresses and phone numbers of the office and laboratory. Once the patient scheduled his or her appointment, the information is in the system; reminders and pretest instructions are sent 2 days before, 1 day before, and on the morning of the appointment.

The program also includes a follow-up message that surveys survivors about their appointment and experience with the clinician. Several modifications have been incorporated since the system was first designed, such as providing survivors with information on available resources in their communities.