Should Photos Replace Texting For Healthcare

I’ll admit that several people have asked me about this over the years.  If a picture is really worth a thousand words, would it be better to send someone a picture than a text message.  Perhaps a picture of me in my skinny jeans if I’m trying to lose weight.  Perhaps a picture of my grandkid if I’m trying to get healthy to run around the yard with them.  Perhaps a picture of my favorite vacation location to motivate me to stick with a health goal.  It’s an interesting question.

So, let’s start with tex messaging in healthcare.  When I think of using SMS (or texting) in healthcare, my first example is always Text4Baby which was a unique coalition of companies that worked with Voxiva to get this launched.

Text4baby_522f5f55154ee_w1500

Of course, Voxiva has since expanded to offer other programs:

Voxiva

And, I think there are some business cases out there around using SMS to interact and change behavior in healthcare.  The Center For Connected Health in Boston with Dr. Joseph Kvedar has been studying this in several settings.  Here’s one poster from them on a pilot.  Here’s a good summary of what had happened as of 2012 from MobiHealth News.

Here’s a few other studies:

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  Lots of people have tried using text messaging as a low-cost but potentially effective way to get messages to consumers about a specific health behavior.  Especially in other countries, this can be the preferred method.

But, we always talk about the fact that people remember pictures better than words.  And, culturally, we’ve become a society that takes pictures of everything.  We share those pictures on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and other social media tools.  And, in many cases, we’re obsessed with infographics as a means of delivering information.  So, why not use them more in healthcare communications?

There is some research out there to support this topic:

I was thinking about my interview with Aetna about CarePass and what CarePass was doing, and it seemed to create a good example.  Would I rather a text that reminded me about my goal or the picture on the right?

whats your healthy ad2

Additionally, I know in discussions with Vic Strecher, co-founder of HealthMedia, that we’re talked about the value of customizing imagery on letters to personalize and engage consumers.  I just can’t find anything published by them right now to show that they studied that.

So, as we think about motivating people and sending them reminders, I think it would be really interesting to see the results of a picture driven process versus a written communication.  Is it the same effect?  Does it vary?  By age, gender, type of action?  Of course, the one thing I would recommend is letting the consumer upload and pick their picture not picking from some general list of canned photos.

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