Queensland research making diabetes care user-friendly and mobile
Queensland researchers are using new technologies to develop a user-friendly mobile diabetes management system. Co-designed with people living with Type 2 diabetes and primary and specialist carers, the new model will help to improve health outcomes for approximately 1.5 million Australians living with Type 2 diabetes.
On 19 July 2021, the research team, led by Dr Anish Menon and Associate Professor Anthony Russell, started rolling out their new model for diabetes care at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. The team is initially enrolling new patients in the service to allow health professionals to adapt. With eight patients now on board, so far, the feedback is positive. The research team ultimately hope to make the model available to all Queensland patients with Type 2 diabetes.
One participant in the age group 60-70 with Type 2 diabetes said: “What I really, really liked was the fact that my endocrinologist had instant, real-time access to my blood sugar levels … I found that really good because otherwise, if you go from three-month to three-month appointments, then so much could happen in that three-month period that it’s hardly worthwhile, to tell you the truth. I also liked that the app made me feel accountable. I need someone to be accountable to. I’ve had this problem [diabetes] a very long time, but if I’ve got someone that I can be accountable to, that makes a world of difference.”
Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia and one of the biggest challenges confronting Australians and our health system. How diabetes is managed depends on the type of diabetes and the individual, but it always involves regular consultations with a healthcare team.
The research team aimed to investigate a user-centred, technology-enabled model for Type 2 diabetes care that links people living with diabetes with GPs and specialist teams. This model is particularly relevant for people in regional areas.
The new model was co-designed with people living with diabetes and primary and specialist carers to improve health outcomes. The research team engaged with 19 adults with Type 2 diabetes and 27 health professionals from primary care, specialist fields and pharmacy using interviews, focus groups or design workshops in person or on Zoom.
A Danish expert in participatory design, Dr Jane Clemensen, facilitated a workshop where patients and health professionals developed the new model together. The results showed patients wanted a personalised care plan focused on personal needs and using community resources. They determined an app would allow health professionals to see blood sugar levels and accommodate an individualised care plan that assisted patients to achieve their goals and share outcomes with their health professionals.
After a workshop with the diabetes specialist team at Princess Alexandra Hospital, the team developed a regional workflow model. The model involved initial face-to-face consultations and a patient review at 12 months. In between appointments, the patients and health professionals use the app to monitor patient progress, allow automated SMS text messages to assist with patient self-management and alert health professionals to initiate contact when it’s required.
The research team developed the app and a clinician dashboard with Net-Health. They attracted further funding through the Queensland Health Centre of Excellence to test the technology and develop regional workflows at three sites (Princess Alexandra Hospital, Toowoomba Base Hospital and Longreach Hospital). As they gather feedback from patients and health professionals, the team will continue to enhance the app. They are also currently working on economic modelling.