Diabetes management app helps teens improve glucose control

Teenagers using a new diabetes management app called Bant measured their glucose levels 50 percent more often than teens who didn't, according to a new study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).

The study provides the final, published results--and some interesting detail--of a study we told you about last fall by Joseph Cafazzo, researcher and director of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada.

The small study provided the iPhone app and an at-home glucose meter to 20 teenagers. Teens were prompted with messages on their phones to take readings at regular intervals. The system also tracked when levels were submitted, and prompted the teen to re-test if they slipped off their schedule. It also suggested lifestyle choices and other behaviors to help with teens who were having trouble sticking with their program.

In designing the app, the team learned a few key parameters to engage and motivate teens. App interactions must be fast, taking seconds, not minutes, to complete. They must be driven by wizards that guide the user to the result, rather than taking a user-directed approach. And data streams should come from automatic remote monitoring and transmission, rather than the user having to enter his or her own data, Cafazzo found.

The program also offered teens reward points for each time they measured their glucose, and awarded users $1 in iTunes rewards for each 200 points. More than 50 percent of the participants earned rewards, according to the study.

The diabetes project isn't the only mobile-enabled study Cafazzo conducted last year. He also tested using text messaging to prompt teens to check their blood pressure. His study identified the key connection between remote monitoring and motivating messaging--namely, that one without the other isn't terribly effective.

To learn more:
- read the JMIR study