Texting teens in transition: The use of text messages in clinical intervention research

Gwen R. Rempel, Ross T. Ballantyne, Joyce Magill-Evans, David B. Nicholas, Andrew S. MacKie

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: The rapidly growing population of young adults living with congenital heart disease (CHD), currently challenging ill-prepared cardiac care systems, presents a novel population in which to consider the use of mHealth. This methodological study was part of a larger study that tested the effectiveness of a clinic-based nursing intervention to prepare teens for transfer from pediatric to adult cardiology care. The intervention included creation of a MyHealth Passport and subsequently SMS (short message service) text messages between the intervention nurse and study participant. Objective: Our aim was to determine (1) the preference of teens with CHD to be contacted via text message following the nursing intervention, (2) the effectiveness of texting to collect data regarding the use of MyHealth Passport after participation in the intervention, (3) the nature of the texting interaction, and (4) the risks and benefits of texting. Methods: Participants were recruited through the intervention study (n=24) by either choosing to receive information from the study coordinator through text message, or texting a question to the study nurses. Inclusion criteria were age 15-17 years, diagnosed with moderate or complex heart disease, and currently being followed by the Division of Cardiology at Stollery Children's Hospital. Exclusion criteria were heart transplantation and/or less than a 6th grade reading and comprehension ability. Text message transcripts were analyzed by qualitative inductive content analysis. Results: Two-thirds of teens (16/24, 67%) chose text messaging as their preferred contact, making them eligible for the study. Texting was effective in collecting information regarding the MyHealth Passport; all but one teen had their MyHealth Passport on them, and many reported carrying it with them wherever they went. All teens reported showing their MyHealth Passport to at least one person. Seven themes were identified in the texting transcripts: mixing formal and informal language, the passive teen, interaction with health care providers, texting teens in transition, texting as a mechanism to initiate other forms of communication, affirmation, and the nurse as an educator. Benefits of texting were identified as flexibility, ability to respond over time, information presented in byte-sized amounts, and information directly related to patient questions. Risks of texting were identified as the possibility that interactions may not be in-depth, distraction of teen and researcher, and invasiveness. Conclusions: Text messaging was useful in collecting data regarding the use of the MyHealth Passport. Text messaging resulted in conversations with the teens that were sometimes in-depth and meaningful, especially when combined with other communication modalities. Using text messaging in a manner resulting in full conversations with the patients requires more study and may benefit from protocols and the use of solid theoretical foundations that would standardize the interaction so that more conclusions could be drawn.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere45
    JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct. 2014


    • Congenital heart disease
    • Qualitative research
    • SMS
    • Teens
    • Text messaging


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