Study: Web-based tools not effective for diabetes management

The idea of using online tools to manage patients' diabetes is a good one, but few of the tools available today actually live up to that potential, according to researchers at the University of Toronto.

That's the upshot of a recent study published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. Researchers reviewed 92 web-based tools, and 57 studies about them, and found that most weren't simple enough, had problems with usability, and didn't provide enough interactivity or feedback. They also experienced "high attrition rates," or patients simply not using them. 

"Existing diabetes websites have wide variations in the quality of evidence provided and offer didactic information at high reading levels with little interactive technology, social support, or problem-solving assistance," the authors said. 

Making tools more interactive may be the key to improving online diabetes tools, according to the researchers. For example, systems that employed human or email counseling worked better than those that did not. And multi-media interactive CDs worked better than those with simple reading content.

Ease of use, too, was critical. More than 60 percent of the tools used in the study had three or more usability errors, the study showed. Many of the tools had bad graphics, such hard-to-find icons, and needed more clear visual elements to guide the user through the program. The tools also lacked intuitive navigation flow, making it hard for users to understand the next step in the process. 

"These and other usability errors can negatively affect users' experience with a tool and may lead them to stop using the tool," the authors said. 

To learn more:
- read the JAMIA study
- check out CMIO's coverage 

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