Doctors in Islington say using text messaging is six times more effective than traditional ways of contacting patients to get them to stop smoking. Surgeries using the iPLATO SMS system have reported patient response rates of 30% (against 5% using letters) for messages asking patients to text back their current smoking status – those who indicate that they are still smokers and trying to quit are then invited to stop-smoking clinics.
See, this is a good use of text. Why doesn’t the NHS do this? Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine.
He’s too busy to do the whole stop smoking support group shenigans, and his local GP doesn’t know his arse from his elbow, so he figured he’d try with a little help from the NHS. So.. he went to the website, signed up, put in his email, mobile and address details, told them when he wanted to quit, and sat back and waited.
Two days later the welcome pack arrived. Just a bunch of paper. No patches, no gum, nowt. Then he got an email saying ‘you’re giving up in a few days, good luck!’, and on the day he planned to quit, a text arrived. Just one text. And not a sausage since. What did it say? ‘Congratulations, welcome to your first day as a non smoker’.
He was back on the fags by that evening. No more texts, emails, or any kind of support since.
What a missed opportunity..
UPDATE: My friend got a text this morning (Saturday) from the NHS ‘Together Team’. It reads as follows:
From the Together Team – FYI – NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 0 169. To unsubscribe text TOGETHER to 63818
So there’s a smoking helpline now? Fantastic.. ‘Hello, can you help me? I appear to have run out of cigarettes. Where can I buy a packet?’ 🙂
I was half expecting him to tell me he’d received a motivational message, but alas no.