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03-11-2011 | Article

Weekly email encourages teens to use acne treatment

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Regular emails can help encourage teenagers with acne to use medication for their skin condition, a research study has found.

The researchers suggest that the weekly email acted as a "virtual office visit," prompting greater use of acne treatments and clearer skin as a result.

Acne is common in teenagers and those with mild-to-moderate acne may be prescribed topical medications - creams, gels, or lotions that are applied directly to the affected areas of skin. However, people often do not use their medications as prescribed.

In this study, Dr Steven Feldman and colleagues at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, wanted to see if they could help increase teens' use of their prescribed acne medications.

"Medication use increases around the time of office visits, but frequent office visits may not be a practical way to increase compliance," Dr Feldman and coauthors explain. "Because adolescents use the internet regularly, we tested whether a weekly internet based communication could improve teenagers' adherence to topical acne therapy."

Dr Feldman's group recruited 20 teens aged between 13 and 18 years who had been prescribed benzoyl peroxide gel to treat their acne. The teens were randomly allocated to receive care as usual or to receive a weekly email.

The email contained a link to a survey that contained six questions about whether or not the person had used their medication, whether the medication had been successful or caused side effects, and how severe their acne was.

The survey was emailed once weekly for 6 weeks. Teens who completed at least five surveys received a voucher and were entered into a prize draw.

At the end of the study, Dr Feldman's team found that the teens who received the weekly emails were much more likely to have used their acne medication. Adherence, measured using electronic monitors, was 89% in the survey group and just 33% in the usual care group.

Teens who received the weekly survey also had clearer skin at the end of the 6-week study period compared with the usual care group, as suggested by the total number of acne lesions.

Dr Feldman and colleagues admit that their study was preliminary but say it nevertheless suggests that the weekly email survey may be a "cost-effective, practical, and easily implemented means to improve adherence."

They write: "Adolescents are savvy users of the Internet and other newer technologies and may respond well to such interaction. Since other forms of electronic 'reminders' have not been very effective at increasing adherence in teens with acne, it is likely that our internet-based survey functions differently from a simple reminder."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Joanna Lyford