The use of short message services (SMS) to provide medical updating to parents in the NICU

O Globus, L Leibovitch, A Maayan-Metzger, I Schushan-Eisen, I Morag, R Mazkereth, S Glasser, G Kaplan, T Strauss
Journal of Perinatology: Official Journal of the California Perinatal Association 2016, 36 (9): 739-43

OBJECTIVE: Premature delivery and prolonged hospitalization of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are very stressful for parents. As technology has advanced, short message services (SMS) have been used increasingly in the medical disciplines. To date, the use of SMS for updating patients and families regarding medical information has not been reported. We implemented the SMS technique to daily update the parents regarding the health status of their preterm infant. The objective of this study was to evaluate the use of SMS technology and to assess its impact on the parents and the nursing staff.

STUDY DESIGN: Parents and nurses completed questionnaires at two time periods: pre-SMS implementation (pre-SMSi) and post-SMS implementation (post-SMSi). The parent questionnaires included statements about medical information delivery, communication and trust between parents and medical staff, parental anxiety and overall satisfaction. The nurse questionnaires included statements about the expected and actual impact on their workload.

RESULTS: Comparison of the parents' responses at the two time periods indicated that in the post-SMSi time period, they felt that the physician was more available when needed (P=0.002), they were more comfortable about approaching the physician (P=0.001) and more satisfied with the medical information provided by the staff (P=0.03). In the post-SMSi period, 78.1% of the nurses noted that the SMS communication is a convenient and user-friendly method.

CONCLUSIONS: SMS updating is an easy and user-friendly technology that enriches the modalities of information delivery to parents of hospitalized preterm infants. It is a complementary and useful tool for encouraging and improving personal communication between parents and medical staff and should be considered part of quality improvement in health care.

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