Are digital interventions for diabetes falling short?

Health tech companies are quickly jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to medical devices and programs that help patients manage diabetes.

But are all of these gadgets and apps really effective? A new report published in the Cochrane Library says they may be helpful up front, but they fall short in the long run.

Positive effects decrease after six months

The report was based on a review of 16 trials that involved about 3,600 people with type 2 diabetes. In each study, patients used mobile phone programs or computer interventions to help manage the condition for one to 12 months. Participants had access to resources like goal setting features, glucose data tracking, online support groups and education.

And while the report showed that these types of interventions had small positive effects on blood sugar levels, the improvements started to decrease after about six months. Mobile apps correlated with slightly better results than computer-based programs. No significant positive impacts were seen on weight loss, blood pressure or quality of life.

“Our review shows that although popular, computer-based diabetes self-management interventions currently have limited evidence supporting their use,” lead researcher Kingshuk Pal of the London-based University College London said in a press release.

Can technology change behavior?

The authors note that technology-based programs may help diabetes patients to gain understanding and education about the disease, but lasting changes in diet and exercise are goals that might call for a number of different interventions.

"Effective self-management is a complex task that may require changes to many aspects of people’s lives," said Pal. “We did not see any convincing evidence for long-term change like this in the interventions we looked at.”

Source: Wiley

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