Cell Phones to Control Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes patients lowered hemoglobin A1C levels by using mobile phone software

(RxWiki News) Cell phones are everywhere. Even doctors are using their so-called "smart phones" to help their patients. Now, diabetes patients may find their cell phones useful.

A mobile "app" for smart phones helps people with type 2 diabetes manage their disease. Diabetes patients who used the app lowered their amount of hemoglobin A1C (one of the main measures of blood sugar control) by almost 2 percent.

"Use your cell phone to manage diabetes."

These findings are encouraging, says the study's principal investigator Charlene C. Quinn, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The 1.9 percent drop in A1C is important, she says, because other studies have shown that merely a 1 percent decrease in A1C can help patients avoid diabetes-related problems such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure.

This study is one of the first to scientifically look at mobile health technology, an industry that is starting to grow quickly. According to Dr. Quinn, the benefits of mobile health are not only for diabetes patients. Mobile technologies also have the the potential to help patients manage any chronic disease.

In type 2 diabetes, the body either does not make enough insulin (a hormone that manages blood sugar) or ignores the insulin. This means that patients have to pay close attention to their blood sugar levels. A key measure of blood sugar control is hemoglobin A1C. When a patient's A1C is high, that patient's blood sugar is also high.

While the American Diabetes Association says that A1C levels should be less than 7 percent, most patients with type 2 diabetes have an average level that is greater than 9 percent.

Patients are told that a healthy diet, exercising, and sticking to their medications will help them meet these targets, says Dr. Quinn. However, she adds, patients often lack the tools to do these things.

Mobile phones may be just the help patients need.

Dr. Quinn and colleagues came to these results by studying 163 diabetes patients. The patients were split up into four groups. Three of these groups were given mobile phones with software for managing diabetes. The fourth group, which did not receive phones, served as a comparison. All of the patients were given a blood sugar meter and other testing tools.

The software that was used in this study gave patients real-time updates on their blood sugar levels and showed their drug treatment plans. Blood sugar levels were sent wirelessly from a blood sugar monitor straight to patients' mobile phones. If there was a problem with patients' blood sugar levels (if blood sugar was too high or too low), then the phone would tell them how to fix the problem.

The software also kept track of and evaluated blood sugar levels and other important information so that it could send information to patients' doctors.

The study will appear in the journal Diabetes Care.

Review Date: 
August 1, 2011