Voice IT could improve diabetes safety

Study suggests benefits of interactive messaging and automated voice systems

A new study, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, suggests that follow-up calls to diabetes patients using interactive voice recognition technology could show promise in identifying safety triggers.

The study, titled “Safety Events during an Automated Telephone Self-Management Support Intervention,” was conducted by researchers from University of California, San Francisco appeared in the May issue of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

In an effort to know more about between-visit interactions and patient safety among chronic illness patients treated in the outpatient setting, the UCSF researchers took a close look at safety triggers such as high or low blood sugar, not having the right medications or experiencing significant side effects.

Patients with type II diabetes received self-management support through interactive messaging using an automated voice system.

"We classified 13 categories for safety events and potential safety events within a larger trial evaluating a multilingual automated telephone self-management support system for diabetes using interactive voice response," the researchers write.

"Participants could trigger safety concerns by reporting hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia; inability to obtain medications; medication non-adherence and side effects; and needing appointments and/or supplies."

The study then followed these triggers across patient demographic and health characteristics to determine which patients were most likely to experience safety events.

Overall, there were 360 safety triggers that occurred among 155 participants, which represented 53 percent of individuals and 7.6 percent of all automated calls over the 27-week intervention. The most common triggers were for pain or medication side effects (22 percent) and not checking blood sugars (13 percent).

"About half of patients enrolled in a self-management technology intervention triggered at least one potential safety event over the course of the trial, and this was more frequent among some patients," researchers write. "Systems implementing HIT strategies to improve self-care and remote monitoring should consider specific program design elements to address these potential safety events."

The research shows that interactive health information technology can support self-management tasks for diabetes, researchers say – noting that further study is needed to understand program design elements to address safety concerns.

[See also: Diabetic patients report better care with use of Web-based PHRs]