To take advantage of the nearly 18.5 billion text messages being sent every month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation have established a text messaging service that informs people of the location of the nearest HIV testing center.
The campaign launched on World AIDS Day, December 1. To find a testing location, users simply type their zip code into the phone and send it to the number 566948, or KNOWIT. The number connects to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's HIV testing database and returns a message with a list of nearby sites.
"In the last couple of years, we have used text messaging because it is one of the fastest-growing media technologies, and it is very popular with young people," Jennifer Kates, VP and director of HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Pharm Exec. "Texting is also very common for African Americans and is used more than the Internet."
HHS and the CDC approached the Foundation to learn how to use Kaiser's existing text-messaging platform as part of a combined World AIDS Day campaign. The text message information is promoted across all the partners' Web sites, brochures, and posters.
"With HIV prevention, you really need to reach people where they are, in the multiple ways, so that they get information," Kates said. "We also have to be quick, because young people are at the forefront of new technology."
Although text messaging has yet to be adopted as a marketing strategy by most pharma companies, the technology has been implemented in a number of health information and compliance campaigns.
"One of the challenges with pharma is all the regulations around marketing," Mike Jelley, cofounder of electronic-marketing firm Ipsh!, told Pharm Exec on Tuesday. "Any time you design a program that is sponsored by a pharma company, there are a lot of pitfalls and a lot of concerns from a legal and compliance standpoint. However, there is a lot of potential in areas of awareness."
Some pharma companies are using text messaging to increase dosing compliance. They are sending patients text messages with reminders to take their medication.
"This not only helps the patient complete a dosage, but it is also good for the pharma companies because they sell more products," Jelley said. "These types of campaigns are less restrictive from a regulatory standpoint because the company isn't pushing a particular drug. However, there are less measurable results."