What if a doctor's orders were as simple as two text messages a day to keep the ER at bay? A recent study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine used an automated mobile health (mHealth) program to reach low-income inner-city patients with type 2 diabetes and engage them in their own health and disease management outside of emergency facilities.
Researchers recruited 128 participants who had sought care for diabetes at the Los Angeles County Hospital of the University of Southern California ED. The study reported that the largest safety-net hospital in the county's public care system annually serves 170,000 patients, 70 percent of them Latino. Study participants could choose English or Spanish versions of the messages, which offered tips on healthy behavior and disease management and did not require a smartphone to receive.
From a release:
For patients who received the text messages, blood glucose levels decreased by 1.05 percent and self-reported medication adherence improved from 4.5 to 5.4 (on an eight-point scale). Effects were even larger among Spanish speakers for both medication adherence and blood glucose levels. The proportion of patients who visited the emergency department was lower in the text messaging group (35.9 percent) than in the control group (51.6 percent). Almost all (93.6 percent) patients enrolled in the program reported enjoying it and 100 percent reported that they would recommend it to family and friends.
"Our goal is to transition our patients from crisis management to long-term diabetes management," study lead author Sanjay Arora, MD, of USC's Keck School of Medicine, said in a release. "The absence of other health care options, reaching our patients by text message makes us partners in handling their disease and improves their quality of life."
Previously: Help from a virtual friend goes a long way in boosting older adults’ physical activity, A look at the “Wild West” of medical apps and Mobile phone app helps manage diabetes
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