A text message programme designed to modify patients’ illness and treatment beliefs improves self-reported adherence to asthma preventer medication


Professor Keith J. Petrie, Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, 85 Park Road, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand (e-mail: kj.petrie@auckland.ac.nz).


Objective. While effective preventative medication is readily available for asthma, adherence is a major problem due to patients’ beliefs about their illness and medication. We investigated whether a text message programme targeted at changing patients’ illness and medication beliefs would improve adherence in young adult asthma patients.

Methods. Two hundred and sixteen patients aged between 16 and 45 on asthma preventer medication were recruited from pamphlets dispensed with medication and e-mails sent to members of a targeted marketing website. Participants were randomized to receive individually tailored text messages based on their illness and medication beliefs over 18 weeks or no text messages. Illness and medication beliefs were assessed at baseline and at 18 weeks. Adherence rates were assessed by phone calls to participants at 6, 12, and 18 weeks and at 6 and 9 months.

Results. At 18 weeks, the intervention group had increased their perceived necessity of preventer medication, increased their belief in the long-term nature of their asthma, and their perceived control over their asthma relative to control group (all p's < .05). The intervention group also significantly improved adherence over the follow-up period compared to the control group with a relative average increase in adherence over the follow-up period of 10% (p < .001). The percentage taking over 80% of prescribed inhaler doses was 23.9% in the control group compared to 37.7% in the intervention group (p < .05).

Conclusion. A targeted text message programme increases adherence to asthma preventer inhaler and may be useful for other illnesses where adherence is a major issue.