Cell phones help with inner-city diabetes management, but long-term prospects uncertain

We've reported extensively on how cell phones can improve the health of underserved citizens in many impoverished countries. The same principles are being applied much closer to home, in low-income, American urban areas.

As the Associated Press reports, Dr. Richard Katz of George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., is exploring how cell phones might help diabetics in inner cities control blood-sugar levels and theoretically save money for cash-strapped Medicaid programs. Participating patients are given phones with Internet access at subsidized rates as long as they follow their doctors' instructions.

One such patient, 43-year-old D.C. resident Tyrone Harvey, accesses a web-based personal health record on his phone to enter daily blood-sugar readings. (Just getting anyone to enter data into a PHR is quite an accomplishment, actually.) If the level is outside a pre-set range, Harvey gets a text message with instructions on how to normalize his blood sugar.

Harvey's doctors are bullish on mobile technology, but the medical literature remains scant on the long-term efficacy of such tools, particularly whether patients stick with programs once the novelty wears off and grant funding runs out. "What systems work best with patients has yet to be figured out," Katz tells the AP. "Otherwise, they find it's a nice toy to start with, and forget about it."

For further details:
- take a look at this AP story, via Yahoo!