At this point, most professionals in the healthcare industry have heard of the potential for text messaging to increase medication adherence. It’s one of the main ways that text messaging is being used in mHealth applications because it’s simple and effective! Just send a text to a patient, and they’ll remember to take their medication. Thus, medication adherence is theoretically improved by text messaging. But does texting really increase medication adherence, or is it just a seemingly good idea? According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, yes–texting really does increase medication adherence. However, like all studies, there are limitations and quite a few more possibilities for improvement for the future study of texting’s effect on adherence.

Text Messaging for Medication Adherence Proofs

woman texting with bag and scarfIn this study, titled “Mobile Telephone Text Messaging for Medication Adherence in Chronic Disease,” the main focus was to see if texting could improve the very poor drug adherence of long-term therapies in chronic disease. The authors studied sixteen randomized clinical trials using a mix of personalization, tw0-way communication, and daily sending frequency. Over the median duration of 12 weeks, texting significantly improved medication adherence, regardless of the type of chronic disease, personalization, two-way communication, or sending frequency, by 50% to 67.8%. These are great numbers, backed by statistical analysis, and show that text messaging is indeed a fantastic tool for increasing drug adherence.

Study Flaws of Text Messaging for Medication Adherence

However, the authors themselves point out a few flaws in the study. A median of 12 weeks is a short time when considering a chronic disease, where many patients need to take one or more medications a day. Thus, the text messaging for drug adherence effect needs to be studied over a longer period of time–possibly years. Second, text messaging features need to be studied more in-depth. What role does daily sending frequency, two-way communication, multiple choice responses, or personalization play? Lastly, various patient populations must be tested. In this study, the median age was 39 years old, with 50.3% of patients being female. Many 39-year-olds are familiar with using mobile phones and texting, but what about elderly populations who are not as familiar with mobile phones? Additionally, younger patients should also be studied, as this population is used to an influx of text messages and medication reminders may not seem so “special” to these patients.


This meta-analysis proved that text messaging does improve medication adherence. It also shows that text messaging needs to be studied further in varied contexts so that the scientific and healthcare communities can have statistically proven results showing an increase in medication adherence. We look forward to seeing further results of texting’s positive influence in healthcare, especially to improve the lives of those battling chronic diseases.

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Jay Thakkar, FRACP; Rahul Kurup, MBBS; Tracey-Lea Laba, PhD; Karla Santo, MD; Aravinda Thiagalingam, PhD; Anthony Rodgers, PhD; Mark Woodward, PhD; Julie Redfern, PhD and Clara K. Chow, PhD (2016). Mobile Telephone Text Messaging for Medication Adherence in Chronic Disease: A Meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. 176(3). pp. 340-349.

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