Text Messaging Program Launched for Prostate Cancer Patients

Roxanne Nelson

February 11, 2013

Text messaging is ubiquitous in modern life. Now, a text messaging program is available to help patients with advanced prostate cancer understand their treatment.

PROST8CARE is the joint creation of Mobile Commons, a mobile strategy and software company, Sanofi US, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). The content of the program was developed by a board of oncologists and oncology nurses in partnership with PCF.

"Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, with 1 in 6 facing a prostate cancer diagnosis in his lifetime, and 241,740 new cases reported in 2012 alone," said Howard Soule, PhD, chief scientific officer of the PCF, in a statement. With PROST8CARE, "we are helping those coping with advanced stages of the disease through text messages timed to coincide with their chemotherapy treatment cycles," he explained.

Patients enrolled in PROST8CARE receive text messages at intervals that are timed to their treatment cycles, for a maximum of 12 weeks. There is no fee to enroll, although standard text message and data rates could apply. It is a 1-way messaging system, so patients cannot send questions to the PROST8CARE program by text.

It is estimated that 95% of Americans with chronic diseases use mobile devices with texting capabilities. In fact, texting is now the number 1 way to communicate in the United States, according to Jed Alpert, CEO and cofounder of Mobile Commons.

"The goal of PROST8CARE is to help men during their chemotherapy, to provide them with information, and to keep them up to date," Alpert told Medscape Medical News. "It encourages patients and helps educate them about their treatment. The text messages are designed to increase patient involvement in their care," he explained.

The messages are designed to reinforce information provided by physicians. The program includes recommendations for addressing adverse events and suggestions about diet and lifestyle modifications.

The program is currently available, but because it is so new, there isn't any feedback on how well it accomplishes its goals. In general, however, these programs have been successful, according to Alpert. "Text messaging is widely used for any number of health-related indications.... It enables providers to reach the broadest number of users," he said.

Text messaging is being used increasingly to support and encourage healthy behavior and to educate consumers about such things as smoking cessation, weight loss, flu vaccination, glaucoma treatment, diabetes management, and prenatal care. It can also be used to remind patients of appointments and to take their medications.

Results are generally favorable. For example, a text messaging system that was used to educate and remind parents about influenza vaccination increased the rate of child and adolescent vaccinations in a low-income urban population, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News. Another system, for HIV patients in Kenya, was proven to be superior to standard care in improving adherence to antiretroviral therapy.

"We have seen good outcomes with it for other health indications," Alpert said. "Patients like it and find text messages very convenient."