New evidence shows technology is becoming an increasingly critical tool within diabetes prevention and treatment programs, and some researchers argue safety-net hospitals are well-positioned to integrate technology into population health initiatives.
In one study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, an analysis of diabetes prevention programs over a 15-year span found technology-driven interventions led to “clinically significant” weight loss among patients with prediabetes.
Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered individuals enrolled in technology-mediated programs that delivered real-time lifestyle, diet and exercise interventions lost more weight on average than traditional programs, and in some studies, those interventions led to a lower prevalence of prediabetes.
A second study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found a teleretinal imaging program at the largest safety net health system in the country helped streamline screening and treatment for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of adult blindness. Researchers found a program at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services improved annual screening rates by 16%, reduced wait times by 89% and eliminated more than 14,000 specialty-care visits by identifying patients at the highest risk for complications.
Both studies underscored the impact of technological interventions on diabetes, a condition that some startups have already begun targeting given its prevalence across the country. But researchers acknowledged the challenges of integrating technology into the healthcare system and wading through a mHealth market that is filled with a range of apps that vary in quality.
In an accompanying commentary in JAMA Internal Medicine, two San Francisco researchers argued standardizing workflows, getting clinician buy-in and training primary care physicians were critical to the success of the teleretinal imaging study—issues that safety-net hospitals have long addressed through targeted population health initiatives.
“Although the mainstream view is that innovation often starts within more well-resourced systems and then is adapted and disseminated to other systems once the evidence base is sufficiently deep, it is not uncommon for safety net settings to be better positioned to develop and implement innovations first,” the researchers wrote.