Self care apps help patients come off diabetes medication

Self-care smartphone apps can bring 'significant improvements' in diabetes management and education, a trial across 18 London GP practices has found.

Smartphone apps boost diabetes management (Photo: iStock)
Smartphone apps boost diabetes management (Photo: iStock)

One in five patients with type 2 diabetes were able to stop taking metformin after four months using self care apps, the trial found. Of 118 patients who provided details of medication they were taking, 20% were able to stop taking metformin during the trial.

Patients taking part also saw a significant reduction in BMI, BP and HbA1c levels, losing an average of two to three kilograms of weight.

Dr Tony Willis, diabetes clinical lead for the North West London Collaboration of CCGs described the results as ‘beyond our expectations.’

Diabetes app trial

More than 400 patients in total took part in the trial of three apps that encourage healthy eating and exercise and educate people about how to manage and control their condition. The scheme was led by the North West London Collaboration of CCGs in partnership with Imperial College Health Partners.

Dr Willis said that improved adherence to structured education programmes and clinically significant improvements in HbA1c, blood pressure and weight 'show just how well people respond when they can receive support at the click of a button’.

He added: ‘The apps act as an alternative tool to diabetes education classes. Patients often don’t attend because many take place during the day which can make it difficult to attend for those who are working or have childcare responsibilities.

‘Referring patients to use the apps doesn’t take a lot of time, patients can contact the app provider themselves. Once a patient is signed up we continue to review people at the normal three- to twelve-month frequency. Patients have come in excited at the changes they have been able to make.'

The apps helped patients understand their condition better, making conversations with GPs more effective, he said.

Self care

‘Evidence suggests that when patients are more knowledgeable about their condition and actively participate in their treatment and care their health and wellbeing improves and they make better use of health services.’

He said that improved diabetes through technology such as these apps could help reduce the huge cost of diabetes to the NHS and reduce GP workload.

‘North West London has made significant improvements over the last couple of years in the numbers of patients reaching target levels of HbA1c, blood pressure and cholesterol,' said Dr Willis. 'Having patients meet these targets is a financial benefit to the GP surgery and the wider NHS.’

The three apps used in the trial were Changing Health, OurPath and Oviva.

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