Mixed results on computer-based support for diabetes

Mixed results on computer-based support for diabetes

Cell phones and computer programs give specific advice and support to people with diabetes, but do not do much to improve their health or quality of life, new research suggests.

The outcomes, published in The Cochrane Library, were based on an analysis of 16 previous studies that assessed a different type of interactive intervention. A few of the programs gave access to social networking and peer support groups from home - some were readily available to patients when they visited a clinic.

Despite the fact that mobile phone and computer management programs have small positive effects on blood sugar levels - these effects are short-lived.

Close to 347 million adults around the world live with diabetes and are at an elevated risk for complications like heart attack and stroke. Some previous research has proven that giving chronically ill patients the skills to control their own disease can help them reduce their risk of complications.

Smart phones and computers give the opportunity to better self-care for diabetes through patient-specific education and support - in turn decreasing costs to health care systems.

The investigators in the current study analyzed data from 16 trials consisting of 3,578 people with type 2 diabetes who used cell phones and computers as part of controlling diabetes interventions ranging between one and twelve months.

Generally, these interventions had positive advantages, but they were limited. In regards to controlling blood sugar, there were small advantages, and even greater advantages for those whose self-care programs were monitored by cell phone.

The authors noted that the advantages decreased after six months. Additionally, there was no proof that these interventions helped improve depression, quality of life or weight in people who have type 2 diabetes.

Lead researcher, Kingshuk Pal of the Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health at UCL in London, said, "Our review shows that although popular, computer-based diabetes self-management interventions currently have limited evidence supporting their use. There are also few studies looking at cost-effectiveness or long-term impact on patient health."

The authors emphasized that some research of computer-based interventions helped to improve education and understanding of diabetes, however, this did not lead to behaviors that can better health, like diet changes and exercise.

Dr. Pal concluded:

"Effective self-management is a complex task that may require changes to many aspects of people's lives. Any intervention to help that process needs to support sustained behaviour change in different areas like eating habits, physical activity or taking medication regularly and provide emotional support. We did not see any convincing evidence for long-term change like this in the interventions we looked at."

Researchers Found Software Program Helpful for Type 2 Diabetes Patiens

Researchers form Maryland University School of medicine reported in Diabetes Care (September 2011 issue) that an interactive computer software program appeared effective in helping patients manage their type 2 diabetes using their cell phones.

Patients who used the application experienced a 1.9% drop in A1c levels over a period of one year.

Charlene C. Quinn, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the principal investigator, said "The 1.9 percent decrease in A1c that we saw in this research is significant. Previous randomized clinical trials have suggested that just a 1 percent decrease in A1c will prevent complications of diabetes, including heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney failure."

Written Kelly Fitzgerald

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