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The Southern Primary Health Organisation and Southern District Health Board have teamed up to fund the service.
They contracted Vensa Health to provide its texting service to about 80 GP practices and other healthcare providers in the two southern regions.
It will enable GPs to text their patients about upcoming appointments.
Reminders about immunisations, influenza jabs, cardiovascular risk assessments, smears and smoking cessation and other health messages will also be delivered through the service, which will reach about 290,000 patients from Waitaki south.
Southern PHO chief executive Ian Macara hoped the service would enable people to maintain and improve their health and wellbeing.
''It will help more people access primary care as, and when, they need to. It's a really effective way to reach our community, some elements of which are highly mobile,'' he said.
The service would reduce the number of missed appointments, while increasing the efficiencies of health providers, he said.
''It's a quick and easy way to maintain contact and a lot less labour-intensive for health providers.''
Vaccine-preventable disease team programme leader Jillian Boniface said it would ensure the population stayed well.
''By keeping in touch with families, we will make sure children receive their immunisations on time, every time. As we move into winter, it's also a great way to spread the message about flu immunisation,'' she said.
Vensa Health chief executive Ahmad Jubbawey said the programme's implementation had just started and, when completed, it would cover about 95% of the South Island.