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Study Finds Digital Reminders Help in Sunscreen Usage

November 30, -0001

The same technology that keeps people connected 24/7 may help encourage them to apply sunscreen regularly via daily text messaging reminders. At the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologist Dr. Joseph C. Kvedar, associate professor of dermatology at Harvard University Medical School in Boston, presented findings of his study that showed text messaging reminders were effective in improving sunscreen usage.

“For most people, cell phones, e-mail and text messaging are an integral part of how they communicate with one another and an ideal channel for health care professionals to reach patients with important reminders on taking their daily medications or even applying sunscreen,” said Dr. Kvedar.

“Our study was designed to determine if, in fact, daily text-messaging reminders encouraging people to apply sunscreen.”

The Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners Healthcare in Boston, developed a reminder service in which study subjects were sent cell phone text messages reminding them to apply their sunscreen.

The technology was evaluated in a randomized controlled trial in the fall of 2008 to test the effect of these reminders on the frequency of sunscreen application.

Seventy patients participated in the study and were asked to apply sunscreen daily for six weeks. Half of the patients were randomly selected to receive text messages via cellular phones and the other half did not receive reminders.

Text message reminders for the study were sent to participants each morning around 7 a.m. with the weather and a reminder to apply sunscreen.

Dr. Kvedar evaluated patients’ adherence to daily sunscreen usage with a novel electronic monitoring device, which was strapped onto the tube of sunscreen. When the cap of the sunscreen tube was removed, the device sent a text message to researchers that was then recorded as evidence of sunscreen use.

At the end of the study period in the report, Dr. Kvedar concluded that the subjects receiving text messages had a significantly improved rate of sunscreen application as compared to the control subjects.

Among the patients in the reminder group, 68.6% reported that they would keep using the text message reminders regarding sunscreen after the study and 88.6% reported that they would recommend the text messaging reminder system to others.

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