Young diabetes patients 'empowered' by mobile treatment apps, SMS

Mobile phone diabetes applications that use pictures and text messages to help younger patients with self care are effective in improving compliance at home, according to a team of Norwegian researchers whose work was published this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.  

The study was small--consisting of only 12 participants between the ages of 13 and 19 over a three-month period--but the researchers believe the tools they used helped the patients both to improve their understanding of tasks involved with diabetes treatment, as well as to boost their feeling of access and, in turn, empowerment.

"Members of diabetes care teams need to take into account that the child and adolescent brain is immature, a work in progress," the researchers said. "It is likely that young people are less capable than we previously thought of converting different theoretical facts related to diabetes into applied knowledge in their daily lives." To that end, the researchers added, use of a picture-based diary helped with understanding.

The researchers noted that the participants enjoyed receiving quick answers to their questions from their doctors, and also liked not having to turn to parents as intermediary--it had an empowering effect, they said.

Mobile-based tools already have made several inroads in diabetes care. In June, WellDoc announced that its Mobile Diabetes Intervention System--a special version of its primary diabetes app, DiabetesManager--will be ready for patients in early 2013.

And research published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics in May determined that text message reminders can significantly improve diabetic patients' adherence to their medications.

To learn more:
- here's the JMIR study