eHealth Initiative: mHealth tools help diabetics manage their disease

Telemedicine, mobile health, patient web portals and social medial show "tremendous promise" to help socially disadvantage populations manage Type II diabetes, but health-care providers seem unsure how to fully leverage some of the technologies, according to a new report by the eHealth Initiative (eHI).

Funded by a grant from the California HealthCare Foundation, eHI analyzed more than 100 peer-reviewed articles to glean how eHealth tools are impacting diabetes management.

The verdict?

The impact of telemedicine and mobile health is significant and growing, with pilot telemedicine programs showing sustained reductions in patient blood glucose levels, and fewer emergency room visits and hospital readmissions. Mobile health also helps patients adhere to treatment regimens, both comprehensive diabetes-management tools such as WellDoc Diabetes Management System and specific mobile apps such as Glucose Buddy

Patient web portals are becoming more popular and provide an outlet for providers to communicate information about diabetes management directly to patients, but it's unclear how patients are using them. And so far, the researchers found, healthcare providers are letting the power of social media go largely untapped.

Bottom line: Rapidly advancing mHealth in particular is likely to significantly impact diabetes care, with the technology readily available to socially disadvantaged patients.

But, the eHI researchers said, existing research hasn't pinpointed what patients want or like in mobile health tools, or whether they find the tools easy to use. It's also difficult to tell how many of the tools are adapted for use in other language, or for patients who don't know much about technology.

A separate study by researchers at North Carolina State University found, for example, that older diabetes patients may have trouble using and understanding blood-glucose tracking apps.

In addition, the eHI report noted, the lack of common standards for information exchange is as big an issue in eHealth as elsewhere in health IT. Some use common encryption standards for security, but specific protocols used are unclear.

To learn more:
- read the eHI announcement (includes link to download report)