Smartphones and social media to increase adherence to treatment

FOCUS News interviewed Professor Antonio Cano, coordinator of the FOCUS project and leader of the group of health professionals and researchers who are implementing the Spanish branch of the FOCUS pilot in Valencia.

FOCUS News: The Valencian pilot is running full speed and the participants look really happy and involved in the activities, judging by the photos we keep receiving. Could you please explain a bit more about the work you are doing to our readers?

Antonio Cano: Well, you know that our main goal is to find out if those who engage in physical activity are better off when we evaluate their general health and quality of life, as well as frailty indicators and psychological aspects, including cognition and mood. Therefore, we have developed a physical activity program consisting of a 1-hour session, twice per week for 12 weeks (24 sessions).

FOCUS News: Many others have implemented physical activity programs to combat frailty in old age, it is probably the most common type of intervention in this field. What is new in the Valencian pilot?

Antonio Cano: You are right. Physical activity programs are quite common but adherence might be a problem when running such initiatives. That is why one of the fundamental pillars in our pilot is training the participants on information and communication technologies. Our intervention plan is divided into two stages. During the first one, the participants exercise with a tutor, while during the second stage they perform the exercise routine learned during the first 3 months in an autonomous way. During this second stage, technology plays an important role as it allows us to keep track of program compliance. 

FOCUS News: Oh, that is really interesting but how does it actually happens? What technologies are you using and how do you make sure that participants know how to use them?

Antonio Cano: We have collaborated with Cybervolunteers. The Cybervolunteers Foundation is a non-profit organization of social entrepreneurs which promotes the use and knowledge of new technologies as a means to alleviate social gaps, generate social innovation and promote citizen empowerment. Within our pilot, they run a technology course focused on the use of smartphones and social media. It lasts 14 hours and is divided into 7 sessions of 2 hours once a week and participants learn the basics on WhatsApp, Email and Facebook. By the end, they are able to handle these tools properly and safely, and are also able to interact more easily with us. WhatsApp in particular is very important, since it allows them to create groups, improving group cohesion. It also helps us to track their activity since we use WhatsApp to periodically send questionnaires in order to determine whether they are continuing to exercise according to their plan. 

FOCUS News: We know that your pilot is focused on senior women, a group that in some countries is not particularly active in using such technologies. Do you have any feedback from them regarding the use of smartphones and social media?

Antonio Cano: Yes, in our pilot, participants are postmenopausal women over 60 years old. By the end of the training, we will assess their satisfaction and the impact that this course had on their skills and level of knowledge.