mHealth-based coaching improves results for diabetic patients

Mobile phone use in health coaching efforts can boost adherence to healthy behaviors, improve glucoregulation levels and foster better mental health for patients managing Type 2 diabetes, reveals a new study.

Regulating diabetes by maintaining regular exercise and a balanced diet can be a challenge, notes the research team, comprised of individuals from the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University, in Toronto, Canada, and the North York General Hospital at the University of Toronto.

"Providing cost-effective interventions that improve self-management is important for improving quality of life and the sustainability of healthcare systems," the researchers write in the paper, published at Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).

The research evaluated a six-month health coach intervention with and without mobile phone use involving 131 Type 2 diabetes patients at two Toronto-based primary care centers. The device group members could track glucose levels, exercise metrics, food intake and moods and communicate with a coach at any time via messaging and calls. Coaches had real-time Web access to the data shared by device users.

While all patients benefited from the health coaching element, the group provided with mobile phones experienced a significant improvement regarding glycated hemoglobin/hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) level within three months compared to the non-device group. The patients using mobile devices also reported a more significant decrease in weight, higher levels of life satisfaction and improved mood and quality of life.

The research paper is just the latest of many on how mHealth technology can help the diabetic populations. Another JMIR study, published earlier this year, revealed that mobile tools can help boost adherence in global chronic disease management, which can lead to improved health and more cost-effective care.

Such findings are propelling providers and healthcare organizations to tap mHealth devices, apps and tool. One example is an effort between Cigna, HealthSpring and Telcare to provide remote monitoring and care engagement services to diabetes patients in the Texas Medicaid STAR+PLUS program.

The Canadian research team notes it is evident that phones enhance connectivity, access to coaches and can help monitor health behavior that leads to reductions in HbA1c levels.

"Further research comparing health-coaching interventions of different contact intensities, using wearable biomonitoring devices and using a true waitlist/control group will help evaluate health coach intervention effectiveness, as well as long-term adherence levels and cost/benefit results," the authors write.

For more information:
- read the paper