A Diabetes Coach in Your Phone

Blood sugar levels reduced in type 2 diabetes patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mobile phones have brought a world of information to our fingertips. We can find just about any bit of knowledge we are looking for, including medical help. Now, it seems like cellphones may be useful for diabetes patients.

A coaching application for mobile phones helps people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels.

"Use your mobile phone to lower your blood sugar."

Charlene C. Quinn, R.N., Ph.D., from the University of Maryland, and colleagues wanted to see if a mobile application for behavioral coaching could reduce patients' blood sugar levels and other symptoms of diabetes.

The cellphone-based treatment works by sending patients real-time educational and behavioral advice based on their blood sugar levels, diabetes drugs, and lifestyle behaviors. At the same time, doctors receive information on their patients' blood sugar control, management of diabetes drugs, lifestyle behaviors, and treatment options.

According to Dr. Quinn, "Mobile health for diabetes and other chronic diseases has the potential to provide information for patients with actionable lifestyle changes. In addition, in our study, physicians received reports on patient status and evidence based suggestions for patient treatment.

"It's important to note that involving providers in a mobile health intervention is important to improve health outcomes," she also notes.

The researchers found that mobile coaching treatment can improve blood sugar control by 1.2 percent. That is, patients who were treated with the mobile coaching program lowered their long-term blood sugar levels by about 1.9 percent, while patients who received normal treatment lowered their blood sugar by about 0.7 percent.

"The 1.9 percent decrease in HbA1c, a measure of diabetes control in the previous two-three months, is statistically and clinically significant," Dr. Quinn said. "Previous studies show that just a 1% decrease in HbA1c prevents or delays diabetes complications."

While mobile phone coaching reduced patients' blood sugar, it did not improve other signs of type 2 diabetes, which include diabetes distress, depression, diabetes symptoms, blood pressure, and lipid values (a measure of insulin resistance).

Dr. Quinn and colleagues came to these findings through a cluster-randomized clinical trial of 163 diabetes patients. Patients were treated with a form of mobile coaching or received usual care. The researchers were looking mainly for changes in glycated hemoglobin levels (a measure of blood sugar over time). They were also interested in changes to other symptoms of diabetes.

The results of this clinical trial are published in Diabetes Care.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 22, 2011
Last Updated:
September 27, 2011