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mHealth Platforms can Help Diabetes Patients Improve Care, Research Finds

November 28, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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New research has revealed that mobile health (mHealth) tools can potentially help diabetes patients modify their behaviors, better manage their care, and achieve improved health outcomes.

The study, from NYU Stern Professor Anindya Ghose, Ph.D., and co-authors, Beibei Li, Ph.D., of Carnegie Mellon University and Xitong Guo, Ph.D., of the Harbin Institute of Technology, combined data from a major mHealth firm in China that provides one of the largest mobile health app platforms in Asia, as well as the Office of Chronic Disease Management in China to evaluate the potential value of technologies such as mobile health apps and mobile-enabled EHRs (electronic health records) as well as the importance of mHealth platform design in achieving better healthcare outcomes.

The study’s authors designed and implemented a randomized field experiment based on more than 9,000 unique responses from over 1,000 diabetes patients over the course of a 15-month period. Their main findings show that adoption of the mHealth platform by users has a statistically significant impact on reducing blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels, hospital visits, and medical expenses of diabetes patients over time.

In conjunction with patient self-management through the mHealth platform, they also found heterogeneous effects between personalized and non-personalized messages. Non-personalized mobile messages with general diabetes-care guidance demonstrate a stronger impact on patient health improvement, the research found.

More specifically, according to a press release announcing the study’s findings:

  • Patients who adopt the mHealth platform see over 2000 percent reduction, on average, in glucose levels over time. They also show an average 327 percent reduction in hospital visits and 799 percent reduction in medical expenses, suggesting a significant economic effect for healthcare providers, insurance carriers, and individual patients.
  • Mobility is key to patients’ self-management success. The mHealth platform has more than 20 percent greater impact on patients’ health outcomes as the web-based option, although both versions provide the same functionality.
  • Platform design is critical to achieving better health outcomes. Non-personalized SMS messages with generalized guidance about diabetes care are 18 percent more effective than personalized messages at reducing glucose levels over time. However, personalized SMS messages are more effective in reducing hospital visits and medical costs. Knowing when to employ each, in combination with other functionality, is vital for patient empowerment.

“By assisting patients with behavior modification and disease self-management, mHealth platforms have tremendous potential for improving health outcomes and reducing medical costs,” Professor Ghose explained in the release. “With this research, companies have an opportunity to better understand patients’ interaction with mHealth technology and design elements that will be most effective for patient adoption and engagement.”

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