Supporting patient adherence to antiretrovirals using mobile phone reminders: patient responses from South India

Kristi Sidney, Jimmy Antony, Rashmi Rodrigues, Karthika Arumugam, Shubha Krishnamurthy, George D'souza, Ayesha De Costa, Anita Shet
AIDS Care 2012, 24 (5): 612-7
There has been exponential growth in the use of mobile phones in India over the last few years, and their potential benefits as a healthcare tool has raised tremendous interest. We used mobile phone reminders to help support adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) among HIV patients at an infectious disease clinic in a tertiary hospital in Bangalore. Between March and June 2010, 139 adult HIV patients taking regular ART for at least a month received weekly reminders to support adherence. These reminders consisted of a weekly interactive call and a non-interactive neutral pictorial short message service (SMS). After four weeks of the intervention, participants were interviewed to study perceptions on preference, usefulness, potential stigma and privacy concerns associated with this intervention. Majority of the participants were urban (89%), and had at least a secondary education (85%). A total of 744 calls were made, 545 (76%) of which were received by the participants. In addition, all participants received the weekly pictorial SMS reminder. A month later, 90% of participants reported the intervention as being helpful as medication reminders, and did not feel their privacy was intruded. Participants (87%) reported that they preferred the call as reminders, just 11% favoured SMS reminders alone. Only 59% of participants viewed all the SMSs that were delivered, while 15% never viewed any at all. Participants also denied any discomfort or stigma despite 20% and 13%, respectively, reporting that another person had inadvertently received their reminder call or SMS. Mobile phone interventions are an acceptable way of supporting adherence in this setting. Voice calls rather than SMSs alone seem to be preferred as reminders. Further research to study the influence of this intervention on adherence and health maintenance is warranted.

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