Summary of Evidence on Text Messaging and Health Behavior Change

Author: Larry Chapman

This edition of Connections contains a brief summary of the findings from 15+ research studies on the effectiveness of text messaging (‘SMS’) in assisting with health behavior change.  ‘Mobile’ is old news. With mobile devices going from a curiosity to a virtual appendage for most workers in the 10 years since the launch of the iPhone, it is no surprise that more wellness programs have an associated app. But apps aren’t a silver bullet. They have a learning curve and are hard to get employees to download and consistently use. In addition, about 60% of app users disable notifications-making apps unable to drive engagement proactively. Unfortunately, most wellness programs ignore the most powerful engagement tool of all: the humble text message (AKA ‘SMS’).

* 90% of texts are read in less than 3 minutes
* Texts have 4x the open rate of emails
* 81% of employees use text messaging at least weekly
* 95% of employees are on an unlimited text  messaging plan
* Text messaging is now the preferred channel  for customer service

Given the level of engagement of text messaging, it is surprising how few wellness programs leverage on this communication medium. In the past year, of the many employers we have spoken with, only a couple reported that they use SMS in their programs. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt persist about text messaging. Even though many dentists text patients, many HR leaders still feel worried about using text messaging to reach employees. Some fear that employees will be charged for text messages, even though almost all employees are on unlimited texting plans. Most employees want to text for work: In a recent survey, 70% of employees preferred text to any other channel for communicating on work topics.

Text messaging may well enable wellness professionals to move into both personalized and proactive programming resulting in significant boosts in employee participation and engagement. Wellness professionals need to consider harnessing the power of text messaging for their own programming.  If you want to explore the use of one of these newly emerging SMS tools please contact us.

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I hope this tool helps you reach your wellness programming goals!  Drop me a note and let me know your thoughts and if you found it to be helpful: [email protected].

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