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How Technology Can Help Diabetes Patients Manage Their Disease

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mobile technology is rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly prevalent in our lives. While its role in healthcare still is being defined, UI Health researchers already are receiving widespread appreciation for their efforts toward transforming diabetes care through the use of smartphones, tablets, and computers to conduct virtual "visits." Recently, UI Health researchers received a five-year, $4 million federal grant to study how mobile technology can assist African-American and Hispanic patients in adhering to their diabetes treatment plans.

How Technology Can Break Down Barriers to Patient Care

Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and 86 million more have prediabetes. These health conditions cost the country $322 billion per year, according to the American Diabetes Association. Many African-Americans and Latinos are at high risk for complications from the disease - amputations, end-stage kidney disease, and severe retinopathy that can lead to blindness - because they do not properly manage their health.

J. Tilton
Jessica Tilton
Clinical Coordinator Medication Therapy Management Clinic

“Patients face many challenges managing their health, says Jessica Tilton, clinical coordinator of the Medication Therapy Management Clinic at UI Health and a co-investigator of the diabetes study. “A previous study we conducted demonstrated that the distance a patient traveled for a pharmacist clinic visit predicted the probability of a patient coming to their appointments. Ultimately, the study’s low show rate indicated that strategies to improve patient access are necessary. Through the use of computers, a virtual visit can be conducted in the patient’s own home to overcome barriers, such as transportation.”

How the Study Will Help Diabetes Patients Manage Their Disease

Throughout the study, UI Health researchers will evaluate whether mobile technology like videoconferencing and text messaging can help diabetes patients improve their medication adherence, eat healthier, and become more physically active. 

This study will involve 220 UI Health diabetes patients who will receive support from health coaches and clinical pharmacists. The health coaches will visit the patients in their homes to learn about their condition and their medical routine, and help them become acquainted with technology. Clinical pharmacists will videoconference the patients at home with the assistance of the health coach. During the videoconference, the pharmacist will provide patient education, medication and disease statement management. Patients also will receive text messages to remind them to take their medications and provide support and encouragement.

The goal of this study is to use technology to facilitate more communication between patients and their healthcare providers without requiring patient travel.