Can smartphone apps help self-management of diabetes?

Smartphone applications could offer patients with Type 2 diabetes a highly effective method of self-managing their condition, researchers have found in a study.

The study reported a reduction in average blood glucose levels in patients who used an app, compared to those who did not, with an approximate reduction in HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) of about 0.5 per cent.

“With the number of patients globally with diabetes expected to rise to over 500m by 2030, there is an urgent need for better self-management tools,” said Ben Carter from Cardiff University in Britain.

Further, younger patients were found to be more likely to report a benefit.

“As we enter an era where portable technology is increasingly used to improve our lifestyles, as can already be seen with physical activity technology, apps can offer a large percentage of the world’s population a low cost and dynamic solution to Type 2 diabetes management,” Carter added.

Diabetes management includes monitoring and managing blood glucose levels. This is done by controlling diet and knowing how foods affect blood sugar. For many people with diabetes, it also involves taking medications that help manage blood sugar levels.

Current diabetes apps allow patients to enter data and provide feedback on improved management. They can provide low cost, interactive and dynamic health promotion by allowing patients to track medications, set reminders, plan meals, find recipes and plan for doctor’s appointments and blood tests.

“By the end of the decade it is predicted that global usage of mobile phones will exceed five billion, so apps, used in combination with other self-management strategies, could form the basis of diabetes education and self-management,” Carter said.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, comprised of a systematic review of 14 diabetes Type 2 randomised controlled trials, involving 1,360 patients.