This project uses SMS text messaging, often used by GP practices to remind patients about their appointments, to send health messages to encourage patients to think about their drinking.
We are working with the Fairhill Practice in Kingston, which has three branches covering differing patient demographics, including a university branch. When patients make an appointment at the practice they receive a text reminder including a message encouraging them to visit a Kingston Public Health website with a simple quiz that tells them if their drinking could impact their health, and advice on how to cut down if needed. There is good evidence that this approach (called Identification, Brief Advice) is effective in helping people reduce their alcohol consumption.
We asked the practice’s patient participation group and students at Kingston University to help come up with the wording for the text message, to avoid the possibility of causing offence, and ensure the message would be effective. The group felt that it was acceptable to send messages about drinking from the GP, but that it would be important to test different approaches from quite positive messages such as ‘want to feel healthier and lose weight?’ to more negative messages such as ‘worried about your drinking?’.
It was agreed to send out positive, negative and neutral messages in the texts when the project starts later this month. These will be monitored to see which are most effective in encouraging patients to access the website.