AUCKLAND, New Zealand, 20 August 2014 - General Practice (GP) clinics around the country are using an innovative practice-patient messaging system to help identify the smoking status of patients, provide brief advice and offer smoking cessation support (Smoking ABC). New Ministry of Health guidelines, which now allow text messaging as an acceptable method of getting brief health advice, have made the job of finding patient smoking status' and providing support easier for doctors.
Vensa Health's TXT2Remind system allows practice teams to deliver appointment, screening and medication reminders as well as key health messages direct to the patient via text message and interactive mobile content delivery. The technology is being used for all four government health priority areas - smoking, immunisations, heart, and cervical screening.
Each year smoking kills more people in New Zealand than road crashes, alcohol, other drugs, AIDS, suicide, murder, drowning and earthquakes - all put together.
Dr John McMenamin, a Wanganui GP and supporter of the Quit Clinic says many practices are using text to contact smokers and offer cessation support, reporting positive results with patients wanting support to quit and many also being referred to quit services. "Practices and PHOs are supplementing their ABC face to face contacts with smokers with outreach texting which is helping achieve the national health target. This is being reflected in Quit services reporting an increased workload with successful quit outcomes."
The South Island is leading the way using text messaging for smoking cessation support, due to the change in guidelines. Over 80% of GP Practices in Canterbury are using TXT2Remind with the support of Pegasus Health, Rural Canterbury PHO and Christchurch PHO, to routinely ask about smoking status as a clinical 'vital sign' and then to provide brief advice and offer quit support to current smokers.
Kate Verpoorten, Practice Manager at Moorhouse Medical says, "Every 6 months we check the smoking status of all patients and ask if they would like advice to quit. Recently, we did this by text for the first time. We sent messages to thousands of patients and over half of our patients who received messages responded within the first day. For those that wanted advice we could immediately book an assessment appointment at the clinic. We can also reinforce advice by text after that."
Verpoorten says TXT2Remind is used by the practice widely, not just for smoking targets, as a way to reach more patients more easily. "People are becoming accustomed to receiving health messages by text and it's a really relevant and direct way to communicate with patients. For some patients it can be tricky to take a call during work hours, and patients are happy to communicate in this way. It's also a lot more efficient for us - we now have a widespread population due to the earthquakes and still a lot of address movement, so we save time and get better results."
Leanne Verdellen, Practice Manager at Shirley Medical says, "Updating the smoking status of our patients has previously been a big task. This was made so simple using TXT2Remind as it just required us to run a query builder of those we wanted to target, construct a text, merge the two, and the replies come rolling in. It's the most efficient way of updating our records and allowed us to reach more patients who may require help with smoking cessation."
Dr Greg Hamilton, from Planning and Funding at Canterbury District Health Board says, "We know quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. This is a really important initiative and part of a wider drive by Canterbury PHOs to better reach the population to help them to quit. TXT2Remind has been an important tool in helping lift our primary care smoking health target from around 50% to 74% over the last two quarters. By taking a region-wide approach we can improve effectiveness and productivity of health care for our population."
Auckland GP Dr David Jansen, the Medical Director of the Hauora Maori Coalition, says "TXT2Remind has been very helpful for getting good information from patients and engaging with them to find out if they smoke and to offer support. We have built a comprehensive programme to reach our enrolled population. The National Hauora Maori Coalition holds a really strong focus on improving access and quality of care for Maori, Pacific and vulnerable populations, so this initiative fits into that overall approach."
Ahmad Jubbawey, Chief Executive of Vensa Health says, "It's great to see our technology being used to better help the population and support our partners. There is strong evidence that brief advice is effective at prompting quit attempts and long-term quit success. We have worked hard with our partners to develop frameworks for Smoking ABC, heart, immunisations and more. General Practice is a very busy place, and technology like ours can really help take some of the workload for doctors, nurses and people working in the practice.
Jubbawey says the pervasiveness of technology today enables mHealth to help deliver a more patient centric healthcare system. "As well as assisting health outcomes in a very direct and meaningful way some great savings can be made through mHealth initiatives."
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Cushla Rose a nurse at Moorhouse Medical talks to patient Johnny Moore about smoking cessation
Moorhouse Medical's Nurse Manager Nicola Thomas talks to Practice Manager Kate Verpoorten about using TXT2Remind to support smoking cessation (L to R)
High resolution images available on request
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About Vensa Health
Vensa Health’s mission is to close the gap for people and their health, one by one. Vensa Health is the leading mobile health (mHealth) solutions provider in New Zealand focusing on delivering mobile health innovations worldwide. Over 750 General Practice customers use mHealth solutions developed by Vensa Health, to deliver health messages to over 3 million Kiwis a year. So, if you have received an SMS from your doctor, hospital or physio almost certainly Vensa Health was responsible for its delivery. Vensa Health is focused on offering solutions and innovations, which add value to their clients, and it’s the fundamental philosophy underpinning all of their services and technology offerings.