Health Care Delivery Innovations—Implementation Matters in Understanding What Works


"Is there anything we can help you with today?" asks a text message, followed by a series of seven follow-up texts over 30 days.

The idea is to make it as easy for patients to get in touch with doctors as it is for them to get in touch with nurses, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

And it seems to work, at least when it comes to reducing hospital readmissions.

Researchers assigned 4,736 patients at 30 primary care practices in a health care system to either receive the automated texts, which ask the patient, "Is there anything we can help you with today?", or usual care, which included follow-up phone calls.

The patients received enrollment texts within two days of discharge, initial check-in texts within three days, and a tapering schedule of seven texts over 30 days.

At the end of the study, 90.6% of the patients who received the texting returned to get help, while only 79.5% of those who received usual care returned, per a press release.

There was no difference between the two groups in terms of hospital readmissions, emergency department visits, or other measures of health care usage, including primary care visits.

The study's lead author, Dr. Nancy Bressman

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