Diabetes management texting program goes live in D.C.

It's not just hospitals or health systems that are trying to get diabetics to use mobile technology to improve their health. Washington, D.C. insurance company D.C. Chartered Health is getting in on the act, too.

The company, whose population is largely Medicaid beneficiaries, has enrolled 50 participants in a small study to see if regular text messages will improve their compliance with diet, exercise and blood sugar testing.

The program has some elements in common with the recently announced txt4health program rolled out in three Beacon communities around the U.S. Both initiatives are relatively low-tech, providing somewhat customized messages to users depending upon how well they've toed the line on their treatment plan and lifestyle choices.

The Chartered Health program sends tips and messages to participants, including reminders to keep physician appointments, when to see a doctor to evaluate symptoms, nutrition tips and other disease information, according to a statement. The texts also ask participants to take their meds properly, and get annual eye and foot exams.

It will be interesting to see how the Chartered Health approach performs when compared to the social-networking version currently being tested by the American Diabetes Association of Washington state. The ADA there is trialing a diabetes management app that ties into Facebook and other social networking sites, to engage family and friends in the patient's compliance.

It has other competitors, as well, including Aetna, which started testing out its own text-based program last Spring. Aetna's program, however, had a more clinical focus on increasing A1C testing levels, reducing overall scores, and engaging the patients with nurse coaches.

Chartered Health's version also doesn't incorporate one new technology that has gotten some good reviews: Virtual coaches. Recent studies show that virtual coaches can be valuable in engaging chronic-care patients in their regimens, and encouraging compliance.

To learn more:
- read the Chartered Health announcement
- dig into Aetna's announcement of its diabetes program