North London GPs are texting patients with advice about what to do if they suspect that either they themselves or someone they know has swine flu.
They are using a patient-care messaging service that was created to improve efficiency and performance across a range of healthcare topics.
Doctors at the James Wigg Practice in NHS Camden report that the flu pandemic has proved to be the ideal test of the new system.
Says spokesman Jeff Mitchell: "Using the text messaging service to reach 8,500 patients led to an immediate decrease in the volume of calls concerning swine flu and an increase in the hits on our question-and-answer website."
The text messages urge patients to phone a flu pandemic line before they call or visit the surgery. They also direct patients to other websites with swine flu-specific information.
The system can target particular patient groups, and allow them to text back a reply that is sent as an email to a specified address at the surgery.