THE BRONX — A Bronx hospital looking to promote health awareness is trying a new technique to reach a wider audience — by going straight to patients' cell phones.
Montefiore Medical Center launched a pilot program last week that sends health information and tips to residents via text message.
Called "Bronx4Bronx," the initiative seeks to broaden the hospital's public health impact by allowing patients to subscribe to a free text message feed, where they'll receive several health-related texts each week, penned by the hospital's own doctors and experts.
Montefiore's Dr. Evan Garfein came up with the idea based on the fact that virtually everyone now owns a cell phone or smart phone.
"Text messaging has become a convenient and reliable means of communication for people of all ages," he said. "Bronx4Bronx allows us to provide local residents with information literally at their fingertips, and we encourage them to share it with others."
The first batch of texts, which were sent out this week, was written by Garfein, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Montefiore who specializes in treating breast cancer patients. The messages reminded patients about the importance of doing breast self-examinations, getting annual mammograms and other information they might not know.
"Breast reconstruction is available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. It’s the law. Ask your doctor," one text message reads.
The messages, available in both English and Spanish, will address different health topics each week (hospital staff is still finalizing plans for the focus of the next batch of texts).
The hospital has been advertising the new initiative by handing out postcards about Bronx4Bronx to visitors at all of its ambulatory care sites, and at community and neighborhood health fairs. Officials also hope patients will spread the word themselves, by telling friends about the program or by forwarding the text messages to others' cell phones.
"Our ultimate goal is to help make the Bronx community healthier through people caring for each other," Garfein said.
The program is Montefiore's latest maneuver in using technology to reach out to patients. The hospital recently revamped its website, launched Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, and was named one of "America's Most Wired Hospitals," by the trade magazine Hospitals & Health Networks.
Note: To subscribe to Bronx4Bronx text messages, text Bx4BX to 32075. To receive messages in Spanish, text Bx4Bx S to 32075. No purchase is neccessary. Patients can opt in or opt out at any time.