Scripps trial taps text for diabetes management

mobile phone

Researchers from Scripps Health will study the value of text messaging in a clinical trial focused on improving diabetes management among a high-risk Hispanic patient population in San Diego County.

The effort, funded by a five-year, $2.9 million National Institutes of Health grant, will use text, as opposed to an app, given earlier research demonstrating the former's viability as a digital health tool.

“This may be because of the ubiquitous use of texting in both low and high socio-economic status communities, and the simpler and direct nature of this approach,” Athena Philis-Tsimikas, corporate vice president for the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute, said in an announcement. “It’s also low cost, which makes it easier to replicate.”

The project, dubbed Dulce Digital-Me, is the third federally-funded research effort for Whitter in the past 13 months.

“We believe our work will identify innovative, cost-effective ways to improve diabetes care and help to reduce health disparities among this underserved population,” Philis-Tsimikas said.

Diabetes management is a burgeoning focal point for mHealth due to the growing patient population and proven benefits of using digital tools. For instance, a recent University of Mississippi Medical Center pilot to remotely monitor diabetes patients proved so successful, it was expanded to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, kidney disease and other conditions.

For the Scripps study, 414 participants will use wireless devices to monitor blood sugar and medication adherence over six months. Half will be provided custom texts regarding good nutrition, the need to exercise and reminders on monitoring and medication intake. The other half will be provided non-personalized messages similar to an earlier Dulce Digital which focused on whether text could help patients better control sugar levels. 

This second study is an outgrowth from initial research, as participants requested customized information.