Study finds parents will use mobile phones to manage a child's diabetes

By Bernie Monegain
08:36 PM

Parents of children with diabetes are most concerned about access to their child's healthcare provider and see mobile phones as a way to better manage their child's disease and connect with the doctor, according to a recent study.

According to the Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners Healthcare in Boston, parents of children with diabetes are receptive to technology – such as a mobile phone that collect sand transmits a child's blood sugar readings to a doctor.

The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (Volume 3, Issue 6, November 2009).

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According to the study, 69.3 percent of the parents of children with Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes completing an online survey had a "very positive" response to the proposed mobile phone glucometer prototype. More than half of parents expressed interest in signing up for the service.

Parental concerns and the willingness to adopt mobile-phone-based technology to help monitor and communicate their children's diabetes are likely tied to the unmet needs of parents, including provider access, limited available information and support and the complex management of children with diabetes, according to the Center for Connected Health.

Nearly 30 percent of parents reported they would 'definitely sign up' for the prototype mobile phone glucometer service, and another 27.7 percent reported they would 'probably sign up.'

"Parents are often the primary caregivers for children with diabetes, and they must learn to adjust their child's treatment based on signs and symptoms, which can vary from day to day," said Alice Watson, MD, corporate manager of the Center for Connected Health. "This can be extremely challenging during a child's transition to adolescence."

"This study demonstrates that parents of children with diabetes are interested in using mobile phone technology to help manage their child's illness, which further illustrates the belief that technology offers a solution," said Venessa Pena, the study's main author.

Parents are most concerned with access to their child's provider, with 84.9 percent of parents wanting shorter waiting times and 78.7 percent seeking easier phone access to their physician. Seventy-eight percent indicated they would like to be able to contact their provider via e-mail to discuss their child's diabetes.

"These study results provide strong evidence for the link between current problems in our medical system and the willingness for parents to adopt new technologies that can overcome these problems," said Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, director of the Center for Connected Health. "Increased enthusiasm for the use of communications technology in patient care management is helping to overcome traditional barriers to technology adoption, making the use of these technologies in clinical practice more feasible."

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents; about 151,000 people below the age of 20 have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Each year, more than 13,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, one in every 400 to 600 children and adolescents has Type 1 diabetes, and 2 million adolescents (one in 6 overweight adolescents) aged 12-19 have pre-diabetes.

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