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Logo of bmcmidmBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
 
BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2012; 12: 56.
Published online Jun 21, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1472-6947-12-56
PMCID: PMC3470938
High acceptability for cell phone text messages to improve communication of laboratory results with HIV-infected patients in rural Uganda: a cross-sectional survey study
Mark J Siedner,corresponding author1 Jessica E Haberer,2 Mwebesa Bosco Bwana,3 Norma C Ware,2 and David R Bangsberg1,2,3,4
1Department of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 55 Fruit St., GRJ-5, Boston, MA, 02114, USA
2Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
3Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara, Uganda
4Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, Center for Global Health, Boston, MA, USA
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Mark J Siedner: msiedner/at/partners.org; Jessica E Haberer: jhaberer/at/partners.org; Mwebesa Bosco Bwana: mwbesa_bwana/at/yahoo.com; Norma C Ware: norma_ware/at/hms.harvard.edu; David R Bangsberg: dbangsberg/at/partners.org
Received February 19, 2012; Accepted May 21, 2012.
Abstract
Background
Patient-provider communication is a major challenge in resource-limited settings with large catchment areas. Though mobile phone usership increased 20-fold in Africa over the past decade, little is known about acceptability of, perceptions about disclosure and confidentiality, and preferences for cell phone communication of health information in the region.
Methods
We performed structured interviews of fifty patients at the Immune Suppression Syndrome clinic in Mbarara, Uganda to assess four domains of health-related communication: a) cell phone use practices and literacy, b) preferences for laboratory results communication, c) privacy and confidentiality, and d) acceptability of and preferences for text messaging to notify patients of abnormal test results.
Results
Participants had a median of 38 years, were 56% female, and were residents of a large catchment area throughout southwestern Uganda. All participants expressed interest in a service to receive information about laboratory results by cell phone text message, stating benefits of increased awareness of their health and decreased transportation costs. Ninety percent reported that they would not be concerned for unintended disclosure. A minority additionally expressed concerns about difficulty interpreting messages, discouragement upon learning bad news, and technical issues. Though all respondents expressed interest in password protection of messages, there was also a strong desire for direct messages to limit misinterpretation of information.
Conclusions
Cell phone text messaging for communication of abnormal laboratory results is highly acceptable in this cohort of HIV-infected patients in rural Uganda. The feasibility of text messaging, including an optimal balance between privacy and comprehension, should be further studied.
Keywords: SMS, Cellular phones, HIV, Sub-Saharan Africa, Confidentiality, Privacy
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