US Federal Grant to Understand the Use of Technology in Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago will study the use of mobile technology in the diabetes management of Hispanic and African-American patients.

A blog post dated September 27, 2016 discussed the use of mobile technology in advising better health practices to nearly 1 million people in India who may lack easy access to health facilities.

In a similar vein, researchers at the University of Chicago, Illinois have received funding ($4 million) from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), to study the utility of mobile phone in providing diabetes care to African-Americans and the Hispanics.

“The United States spends nearly $322 million dollars each year on diabetes.”

In the African-American and the Latino groups, diabetes causes complications, such as retinopathy, amputations, and kidney disease at the end stage. The complications arise largely due to neglect and proper management of diabetes.

Even though the cause for the increase in complications in the 2 ethnic groups is clear, dealing and managing these complications is another ball game altogether.

This is because of the complex social circumstances surrounding most of the people in these ethnic groups. People in these ethnic groups may live in hostile neighbourhoods with no family support or other social help. Financial difficulties are another complication.

As a result, the objective of the researchers at the University of Chicago is to collaborate with clinical pharmacists and health workers for the purpose of analyzing the use of mobile technology in treating diabetes.

The researchers hope to use the text messaging service to remind the patients of their medications, provide information and promote healthy eating as well as exercise. The clinical pharmacist will check on the patients’ compliance with the diabetic medication regimen while the health worker will examine the obstacles in the patient’s surrounding environment (e.g. family, neighborhood, work), which prevent strict adherence to the medication, diet, and exercise regimen.

“Regular text messages that are sent out by clinical pharmacists will remind patients of the medications they need to take.”

However, some patients may not be in a good health condition to remember to take these medications or may not have the required help to get access to these medications. Many of them have financial, psychological issues that prevent them from taking their medicines.

“The health workers are meant to identify the circumstances that prevent a patient from following the medication regimen.”

Identifying socially isolated individuals is essential as the health worker can focus on such individuals and provide more support and access to the medications and quality healthcare. For instance, the health worker could videoconference from the home of a patient with the doctor so the patient can ask questions. This is particularly useful in cases where the patient is is unable to travel.

Using the text message service provides instant accessibility and more frequent contact between the patient and the health facility. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has provided the University of Chicago with a $4 million dollar grant for a period of 5 years to understand the impact of mobile technology in improving healthcare to the underprivileged sections of diabetic individuals.

The United States currently has 30 million diabetic individuals, and 86 million individuals have prediabetes. Hence, improving the lifestyle of most of these individuals will ease the burden on healthcare. This study hopes to identify a novel method of improving healthcare through accessibility and effective maintenance programs.