Text Message Support Tools Improve Diabetes Outcomes


Researchers with San Diego, Calif.-based Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute presented some promising findings at the American Diabetes Association’s 74th  Scientific Sessions conference last week. The findings come from researchers working within Scripps Health, Dr. Eric Topol’s digital health research powerhouse. Researchers created a text message outreach platform designed to help high-risk patients stick to their diets and improve their medication adherence rates.

The study was conducted in partnership with local community clinics and focused on high-risk latino patients with type-2 diabetes. Researchers selected 126 patients for inclusion in the study. The patients were randomly split into two sub-groups. One group, the control, was provided standard outpatient diabetes management care. The second was provided the same standard care, but was also enrolled in the text message support system being tested.

The standard care included primary care visits and computer-based educational presentations that delivered bilingual nutritional guidance, blood sugar control strategies, cholesterol and blood pressure education, and medication management best practices. The text message program supplemented this by sending motivational or educational content to patients randomly several times a day throughout the week. The texts reiterated the same content provided in the computer presentations: medication strategies and dietary compliance. The texts also asked patients to go check their blood sugar and reply with their current sugar levels.

The groups were followed for six months, at which point outcomes were compared. “At the six-month mark, we found that the Dulce Digital participants had a significantly larger decrease in hemoglobin A1c test levels than the control group,” said Dr. Tsimikas, leading researcher with Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute.

Scripps has long been a leader in the drive to incorporate digital health and innovation into traditional health care delivery. In February, the Scripps Translational Science Institute was chosen to partner with NASA to commercialize new technology that might lead to breathalyzer-based cancer screening solutions, an advancement that could lead to earlier detection of some of the more difficult cancers to identify in early stages, like lung cancer.

Scripps is also partnered with Scanadu, the digital health startup building a highly anticipated tricorder-like device that it hopes will disrupt the in-home thermometer market. Called the Scanadu Scout, the device is capable of capturing a full set of vital signs and then pushing the results to a smartphone app. Scripps is partnered with Scanadu to support their FDA required clinical trials.

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