Short message service text messaging was feasible as a tool for data collection in a trial of treatment for irritable bowel syndrome



      To examine the feasibility of collecting data relating to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), symptoms by short message service (SMS) text and explore the data to assess its usefulness.

      Study Design and Setting

      In a randomized parallel group design substudy, 59 consenting participants recruited from primary care to a trial of acupuncture for IBS (ISRCTN 08827905) were randomized to receive a one-question SMS message at either 9:30 am or at 6:30 pm for 7 days: “On a scale of 0–9, with 0 being no symptoms and 9 being the worst symptoms you could have, how would you score your IBS symptoms now? Please text back a single number.”


      Of the total messages, 59% (n = 203) were answered within 15 minutes, 73.4% (n = 254) within 1 hour, and 97% (n = 334) within 10 hours. Response rates to evening texts were higher (93.5% vs. 87.6% P = 0.05) and response times shorter though not significantly (median: 0 vs. 5 hours; P = 0.12). There was no difference in mean scores, and morning symptoms varied more. Mean scores correlated significantly with IBS trial primary outcome measure, the IBS symptom severity score, and secondary outcome measures.


      Among IBS trial participants, data collection by SMS is feasible and acceptable, and there is potential for deriving meaningful data from the scores.


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