Future of mHealth: texts to keep diabetes in check

On July 30, Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, USA outlined an ongoing pilot study that uses texting to keep diabetic youth on track with their meds, an example of mHealth or mobile health.

"This form of communication allows for real-time health management which is extremely valuable for patients that suffer from a chronic illness like diabetes," explained Jennifer Dyer, MD, MPH, an endocrinologist and principal investigator in the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Dyer noted, "If adolescent diabetes patients do not adhere to their treatment and medication plan, it can result in difficulty concentrating in school or functioning throughout the day."

"One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages a day, or 3000 texts a month," according to a 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project published in April 2010.

Dyer found that her "weekly, customized text messages to remind adolescent diabetes patients about their personal treatment activities" increased "overall treatment adherence and improved blood glucose levels."

The texts included "personalized questions and reminders" addressing "glucose testing, meal boluses [insulin treatments] and frequency of high and low glucoses" plus Dyer also sent "friendly, supportive messages" to patients resulting in an increase in teens taking their meds. 

"Excellent control and treatment can have a long term positive effect on a patient with diabetes," said Dyer. "The rate of medication non-adherence among adolescent recipients is approximately four times higher than that among adult recipients."

The study thus far has shown a jump in compliance and Dyer is working on an iPhone application that will allow endocrinologists worldwide to send automated "personalized" texts to numerous patients at a specific time.

Watch Dyer and her patient describe the study: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WinDPSY59EA