New Study Suggests Text Messages Could Help Patients Control Diabetes

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Researchers from the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute have devised a new text message program which they claim could help patients control their diabetes by sending them information about proper nutritional habits, the benefits of physical activities and reminders to check blood sugar on a regular basis.

The program is part of the Dulce Digital study, and initial results suggest a text message-based self-management intervention improved the glycemic control of high-risk Latinos suffering from type 2 diabetes. The researchers reported their findings Friday during a presentation at the 74th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

“The use of mobile phones in health care is very promising, especially when it comes to low-income populations with chronic diseases,” Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute corporate vice president Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas explained in a statement Friday.

“We found that by using text messages we were able to circumvent many of the barriers these patients face, such as lack of transportation or childcare, while still being able to expand the reach of diabetes care and education,” she added.

Dr. Tsimikas and her colleagues joined forces with a community clinic located in the San Diego area known for providing services to a large number of Latino patients with type 2 diabetes. They recruited 128 participants and then randomly placed them in one of two different groups: those receiving only standard treatment for the condition (the control group) or those who received text messages in addition to regular care.

The standard treatment program consisted of regular visits with primary care physicians, as well as a brief computerized presentation including nutrition standards for those with diabetes; desired targets for blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels; and the various medications recommended to help keep the disease in check.

“For the text messaging group, the same standard care was provided but in addition, messages were sent to their mobile devices at random times throughout the week,” the institute said. “Two to three messages were sent each day at the beginning of study enrollment, and the frequency tapered off over a six-month period.”

The content of some of those text messages included reminders to check blood sugar both before and after participating in physical activity, using smaller plates in order to help make portions look larger and trick yourself into feeling fuller after eating, and remembering to take medications at the same time each day.

At the end of the six month period, Dr. Tsimikas and her fellow investigators – whose research was supported by the McKesson Foundation – discovered that those participating in the Dulce Digital program experienced a significantly larger decrease in hemoglobin A1c test levels than those receiving only regular care.

“Potential next steps include incorporating text messaging into conventional self-management education programs,” the institute said. Possibilities include having patients meet in one-on-one or group visits, and then have supplemental texts sent as ongoing reminders over the course of the next six months.