Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Mobile phone text messaging for promoting adherence to anti-tuberculosis treatment: a systematic review

Mweete D Nglazi12*, Linda-Gail Bekker1, Robin Wood1, Gregory D Hussey3 and Charles S Wiysonge345

Author Affiliations

1 The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory 7925, Cape Town, South Africa

2 International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, 68 Boulevard Saint Michel, 75006 Paris, France

3 Vaccines for Africa Initiative, Division of Medical Microbiology & Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory 7925, Cape Town, South Africa

4 Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg Campus, Francie van Zijl Drive, Tygerberg 7505, Cape Town, South Africa

5 Division of Community Health, Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg Campus, Francie van Zijl Drive, Tygerberg 7505, Cape Town, South Africa

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:566  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-566

Published: 2 December 2013

Abstract

Background

Mobile phone text messaging (SMS) has the potential to promote adherence to tuberculosis treatment. This systematic review aims to synthesize current evidence on the effectiveness of SMS interventions in improving patients’ adherence to tuberculosis treatment.

Methods

We searched electronic databases (PubMed, EMBASE, Science Citation Index), reference lists of relevant articles, conference proceedings, and selected websites for eligible studies available by 15 February 2013; regardless of language or publication status. Two authors independently screened selected eligible studies, and assessed risk of bias in included studies; resolving discrepancies by discussion and consensus.

Results

We identified four studies that compared the outcomes of the SMS intervention group with controls. Only one of the four studies was a randomized controlled trial. This was conducted in Argentina and the SMS intervention did not significantly improve adherence to tuberculosis treatment compared to self-administration of tuberculosis treatment (risk ratio [RR] 1.49, 95% confidence intervals [CI] 0.90 to 2.42). One of the non-randomized studies, conducted in South Africa, which compared SMS reminders to directly observed therapy short course (DOTS) reported similar rates of tuberculosis cure (62.35% vs. 66.4%) and treatment success (72.94% vs. 69.4%). A second study from South Africa, utilized SMS reminders when patients delayed in opening their pill bottles and reported increased tuberculosis cure (RR 2.32, 95% CI 1.60 to 3.36) and smear conversion (RR 1.62, 95% CI 1.09 to 2.42) rates compared to DOTS. In the third non-randomized study, conducted in Kenya, use of SMS reminders increased rates of clinic attendance on scheduled days compared to standard care (RR 1.56, 95% CI 1.06 to 2.29). Using the GRADE approach, we rate the quality of the evidence as low, mainly because of the high risk of bias and heterogeneity of effects across studies.

Conclusions

This systematic review indicates that there is a paucity of high-quality data on the effectiveness of SMS interventions for improving patients’ adherence to tuberculosis treatment. The low quality of the current evidence implies that further studies (in particular randomized trials) on the subject are needed. In the interim, if the intervention is implemented outside research settings an impact evaluation is warranted.

Keywords:
Mobile phone; Text messages; Tuberculosis treatment; Anti-tubercular agents; Adherence; Compliance