This article summarises findings from a recent study of a telehealth programme published in Health Affairs, which found that Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics both improved their disease management and reduced healthcare spending after receiving text reminders to watch their blood sugar and other aspects of the disease. The lead author argues that daily engagement with providers through smartphones can keep people on track with their self-management and help to build behavioural changes.
The 67 patients involved in the CareSmarts programme received between three and four texts a day, including reminders about when to check their blood sugar, educational tips, and questions about routine care services like medication refills. If a patient responded to the text saying they were out of a particular medication, the message triggered a follow-up call by a nurse to coordinate a refill. If a patient exhibited a pattern of poor responses or self-reported a lack of adherence, the nurse would call to perform a personalized assessment and help relay the information to the primary care physician.
59% of participants agreed that the program helped them improve their medication adherence, while 77% improved their foot care. 88% said that knowing their primary care team was reviewing their messages prompted them to stay more engaged and listen to the text message advice. Patients were generally more able to control their A1C levels, with the best results seen among those who were the most poorly controlled at the start of the program. Over the six-month pilot period, average patient costs declined by more than $800, while the programme costs were estimated at $375 per participant.