One of the greatest challenges in diabetes care is engaging patients in their disease self-management. Mobile health technologies have been shown to mitigate this challenge. Over the last decade, smart phones and tablets provided unique tools to increase patient-provider interaction and patient engagement in their healthcare through text messaging, telehealth consultations with healthcare providers, comprehensive smartphone applications, and wireless Bluetooth syncing with medical devices.
Many medical conditions improve when patients actively engage in disease management outside of the clinic, with diabetes being the low hanging fruit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 million people in the United States have either type 1 (T1D) or type 2 diabetes (T2D). Another 84 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a condition which eventually may lead to T2D in the absence of a lifestyle intervention. With roughly a third of the nation’s population having this chronic disease or at risk of developing it, we need to re-evaluate our existing care model not only to empower patients to be more involved in monitoring their health and more dynamic in decision making of their healthcare, but ultimately to provide more efficient scalable interventions at a population level.
Diabetes management is complex and can be onerous. Patients need to be physically active and exercise regularly, choose healthy foods that have minimal impact on their blood glucose, and keep track of numerous medications and insulin regimens to improve adherence to treatment plans. They also need to regularly measure blood glucose levels throughout the day and make frequent physician appointments to monitor long-term complications such as retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, and cardiovascular disease. It comes as no surprise that patients trying to control their diabetes often experience emotional and mental “burnout” which can lead to poorer health outcomes with adherence at 50-70 percent.
One of the major inefficiencies in diabetes care is rooted in the reality that doctors have too little time to focus on lifestyle management strategies for patients when seeing a growing patient population. Over 50 percent of diabetes-related healthcare spending is due to downstream complications of diabetes, many of which can be prevented if better lifestyle interventions are implemented early on.