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Software and Hosting Options

Level 2: Moderate Customization

Solution for two-way intervention with tailoring

For interventions intending to use tailored, two-way messaging, a system with a customized, in-house text messaging application and an external SMS gateway provider may be the best choice (see figure below). This type of program will allow for more customizability in scheduling, reporting, tailoring, and personalizing of messages. They have greater flexibility interfacing with other health it systems and can incorporate conditional branching logic. Outgoing responses can be tailored to the recipient's response. Application customization usually requires the assistance of a programmer, or application developer. Many application vendors provide this service. There is usually some set-up expense and fees for sending messages. Check with individual vendors and developers to get specific costs.

Elements in a vendor-hosted system. The research staff uses in-house software to interact with a vendor’s SMS gateway. The vendor’s system then interacts with the outside cellular service, which sends messages to users’ phones.

  • Application with greater customization capability (professional services available from vendor) 
  • External SMS gateway provider
​Common Uses
  • Disease management and monitoring 
  • Personalized reminders and responses 
  • Data collection 
  • Personalized notifications
​Features and Customizability
  • Moderate to high customizability 
  • Two-way interactive text messaging 
  • Supports multi-channel (voice, text) messaging 
  • Some flexibility in integration with other programs 
​Hosting/Data Storage
  • Data are usually stored internally, but pass through an SMS gateway
​Cost Considerations
  • Some up-front development costs Low service fees
  • Easy to moderate set-up 
  • Opportunity to add customized features and tailor or personalize messages
​C​ase Study
SMS Combined with Social Media
​A recent study used text messaging in combination with social media to deliver a weight loss program to college students. Researchers sent 3 types of text messages at random intervals. The first was a prompt to monitor daytime weight, calorie intake, and activity level and text back nightly the information. . After responding, the participants received a general response. The second type was sent 2 days per week and included a motivational message along with a request for the information collected. Upon receipt of the data, immediate feedback was sent to the participants, based on their response. The third type (sent 2 times per week) offered tips, which were tailored according to participant’s previously identified risk behaviors and situations.. All data received from text messages were then compiled into personalized feedback reports for participants on a weekly basis.

The text messages sent to the participants in this study were created and managed using in-house customized text messaging software. The data that supported the application (e.g. participant Facebook URL address and, mobile phone numbers) were stored on an external server. The system used an external SMS gateway provider (Twilio).
​Source: Napolitano MA, Hayes S, Bennett GG, Ives AK, Foster GD. (2013). "Using Facebook and text messaging to deliver a weight loss program to college students." Obesity (1):25-31.
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