FIRST LOOK: mPulse Mobile Partners with Harvard Medical School on Texting Program for Medicaid Members

Could targeted and interactive text messages to Medicaid patients improve disease management and boost primary care visits?

That’s something Harvard researchers, in partnership with mPulse Mobile, plan to find out. Mobile health engagement leader mPulse Mobile just announced the new effort, which will be tackled in cooperation with researchers at the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School (Harvard).

The research will start with implementation of two distinct programs.

“One program will evaluate whether interactive text messaging helps new members select and visit a primary care clinician soon after enrolling,” explained mPulse Mobile in a media release. “The second program hopes to activate members with chronic conditions, such as asthma, to enroll and engage in a disease management program.”

The initiative builds on a known medical fact: of all U.S. health problems, chronic diseases are among the most preventable. Since chronic disease management accounts for 86 percent of the nation’s total healthcare costs, improvements in engagement with the Medicaid population could pay big dividends.

During the evaluation of both programs, two-way, tailored text messages will be delivered to a population of about 200,000 Gold Coast Health Plan (GCHP) Medicaid members.

While one-way, notification-based text messages have been widely used by healthcare organizations for years, research to determine the effectiveness of interactive text messaging programs tailored to targeted populations is limited. This reason, among others, was why Harvard was eager to work with mPulse Mobile to assess the solutions’ abilities to yield positive results.

“There is a major need for innovation in care delivery and how we can engage patients outside of just the office visit,” said Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH, and program researcher and associate professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School. “I’m excited about the possibility for mPulse Mobile to engage individuals in their health using tailored and interactive text messaging to improve outcomes and lower costs.”

Part of the beauty of the program is that it will seek to make inroads into solving a real need: helping newly-insured members who may feel overwhelmed when faced with navigating the healthcare system, understanding their benefits, and identifying in-network physicians.

“We offer members targeted strategies for helping manage chronic conditions, working with them to achieve their best possible health,” said Nancy R. Wharfield, MD, the associate chief medical officer at Gold Coast Health Plan. “mPulse Mobile’s solutions are based on its deep understanding of the unique challenges health plans face in managing Medicaid and other vulnerable populations, and it’s demonstrated time and again its ability to design effective mobile engagement strategies.”

Research funding for both projects will be provided by California Health Care Foundation. CHCFs Health Innovation Fund supports innovative approaches to improving care delivery to the benefit of underserved Californians.