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Interactive app provides disease management tool for diabetes

Scientists have developed an online interactive app to help motivate patients to be more active in managing their disease…

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A research team have developed an online interactive app to help motivate patients to be more active in managing their disease. 

“Based on prior work, we thought people would underestimate the impact of physical activity, but we were wrong,” said Dr Bryan Gibson Assistant Professor in Biomedical Informatics at the University of Utah Health. “The patients overestimated the impact of physical activity on their blood sugar, but after using the simulation their motivation still increased.”

Dr Gibson believes the participants were swayed when the results affirmed their beliefs of the positive effect of physical activity on blood sugar.

More importantly, the patient can run the app multiple times to explore how the time of day and length of physical activity affect blood sugar levels. Through this process, they can pinpoint the optimal time for their exercise to reap the most benefits.

The researchers found the app provided an effective way to change patients’ attitude toward physical activity and shift their beliefs to incorporate more exercise into their daily routine. In fact, the participants on average increased their plans to walk for exercise in the next week by more than 30 minutes (from 67.1 minutes pre-study to 100.5 minutes post-study).

“I see this as a tool that educators can use in their office to help patients make the visual connection between the power that they have with physical activity and diabetes management,” said Dr Nancy Allen, Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing at U of U Health.

Of the 2,019 participants who visited the website, 1,335 (566 male; 765 female) submitted completed data. Of which, 77 percent were Caucasian and 15 percent were Hispanic, African American, American Indian or Native America, and Pacific Islander. According to Oakley-Girvan, the next project will include a participation pool that more closely mirrors the U.S. population managing this disease.

In the future, the research team hopes to adapt this approach by personalising the app by creating patient-specific blood sugar curves using a glucose monitor and an activity monitor rather than rely on average blood sugar curves. In addition, they hope to integrate this work into the clinical care setting to give providers additional tools to help educate their patients. The team also wants to leverage the power of social engagement by integrating the app into a supportive group setting.

“Exercise is a natural part of your daily living,” said Dr Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, a research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and co-author on the study. “Sitting is the new smoking, but our technology empowers patients to understand how exercise improves their health.”

The results have been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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