Today, the second installment of a new three-part series of guest posts addressing various angles on Technology & Diabetes.
I hope the title of this post doesn't sound preachy. It shouldn't, because besides being an experienced clinician, educator, and community health advocate, Neal Kaufman (husband of the ever-famous endo Fran Kaufman) is also an innovator in internet and cell phone solutions designed to help patients fare better. His new company, called DPS Health, offers something called "Virtual LifeStyle Management" to walk patients through making healthier choices on a daily basis. What exactly does this entail? I'd better let him explain...
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A Guest Post By Neal Kaufman, MD
Today, more than at any other time in our history, the population of the U.S. is acting out its addiction to sugar, salt, fat, and inactivity. While these addictions are dangerous for the general public, they can be deadly for those with diabetes. If you are a patient with diabetes, or pre-diabetes, you must not only be knowledgeable about health-promoting behaviors, you must learn to adopt these behaviors for the rest of your life.
To be successful, you must not only understand your condition, but also obtain the skills to set goals, solve problems, monitor results, and overcome barriers to change. To accomplish this, ongoing support from physicians, diabetes educators, and dietitians is required. Healthcare providers often do not have the time to adequately support all aspects of their patients' long-term behavior change. With widespread, low-cost internet and cell phone access erasing geographic, economic, and demographic barriers, diabetes care providers can now support significant behavior changes by incorporating information technology into patient care.
Doctor-Driven Technology Can Help Patients Take an Active Role in Managing their Health
You may already be familiar with the buzzwords "patient self-management." In layman's terms, it means you have the opportunity to take an active role — in tandem with your healthcare provider — in the treatment of your disease. Today, patient self-management enabled by information technology (websites, email, text messaging, smart phone apps, videos and more) is becoming an important factor in healthcare and lifestyle support.
What I'm saying is that besides the Web sites and tools you may find and use on your own, your physician can now provide you with access to technology-driven programs that are directly linked to a clinician, diabetes educator or dietitian to help you better manage your diabetes and support your need to change unhealthy behaviors for the long-term. These innovative, clinician-linked programs are a coordinated approach to promoting healthy lifestyle that will likely be reimbursed with the new healthcare reform legislation that has recently been approved in the U.S.
The best technology-driven patient self-management programs are rich in relevant content, provide engaging interactive elements, and offer a tailored, personalized learning experience. They contain self-assessment and goal-setting tools, and ways for you to monitor your performance as well as changes in your biologic measurements such as weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar. They also allow you to easily access your information, input your data, and receive support in real-time.
With technology-based learning programs, you can gain knowledge, obtain support, and track your behaviors 24/7. Additionally, a nurse or diabetes educator can serve as a "virtual coach," supporting you in the process and helping you sustain new healthy behaviors.
Of course, technology-enabled behavior change is a complex undertaking. To be successful, technology-based programs must be based on evidence, proven by research, and solidly grounded in behavior change theory and clinical expertise.
Some Exampes of Novel Tech-based Diabetes Prevention or Treatment Tools
There are numerous products and programs available to help you improve your health though increased physical activity and healthy eating. One example is our Virtual Lifestyle Management service (VLM). VLM is an online program based on the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a weight management approach developed by the University of Pittsburgh faculty under a federal research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Through web-based technology, VLM delivers the DPP research-proven lifestyle intervention, aiming to enhance the efficiency and success of healthcare provider weight management programs. Through lessons with streaming audio, interactive workbooks, email coaching and more, VLM features nutrition, physical activity and weight-tracking tools that provide clinically- linked support and promote lasting behavior change.
Additionally, there are a growing number of text messaging-based programs that allow you to receive condition-specific questions, messages, and prompts texted to your phone — and help you communicate via text with peers who have similar health concerns and lifestyle goals. One example, "Diabetes Buddies," developed by DPS Health and being researched in South Africa by UCLA, offers peer-to-peer support through text messaging.
It should be obvious by now that the use of information technology to support patient self-management is becoming an integral part of delivering healthcare and lifestyle support. Today, clinicians can use tech-based tools, coupled with traditional treatment, to support large numbers of patients with diabetes in an economical and practical manner — a win-win situation, I would say.