Study: mHealth shows promising effect on cost, outcomes for diabetes patients

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A study of an mHealth app in China shows user engagement can drive down glucose levels for diabetes patients.

New research from New York University shows mHealth tools can have a substantial impact on clinical outcomes for patients managing Type 2 diabetes.

Some of those benefits include lower glucose levels, fewer hospital visits and lower medical expenses.

The study (PDF), self-published by researchers at the Stern School of Business at NYU, Carnegie Mellon University and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, analyzed data linked to more than 1,000 people collected by a Chinese mHealth company along with the country’s Office of Chronic Disease Management. Compared to a control group, those that used an mHealth app that provides behavior tracking, risk assessment analytics, physician support and community support saw glucose levels drop significantly.

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In particular, the researchers found that pairing the app with non-personalized text message reminders about diabetes care had the biggest impact on reducing blood glucose levels. On the other hand, personalized messages were more effective at driving down hospital visits and overall costs.

“By assisting patients with behavior modification and disease self-management, mHealth platforms have tremendous potential for improving health outcomes and reducing medical costs,” NYU Stern Professor Anindya Ghose said in a release.

Diabetes and pre-diabetes conditions cost the United States approximately $322 billion each year, according to the American Diabetes Association, making it a big target for several technology companies like Omada Health and Virta, an online specialty medical clinic that has set a goal of reducing Type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025.

As the healthcare industry shifts towards value-based reimbursement, experts have highlighted the potential impact of timely reminders, or “nudges,” particularly for populations suffering from chronic conditions.