The American Diabetes Association 72nd Scientific Sessions:
Facebook for Diabetes Care: Connecting Online with Your Patients
Adolescents these days are incredibly tech-savvy; this is the world they’ve been raised in. It seems, then, that using technology to help improve their diabetes care would be a good idea. They’re already online a lot, so why not use those tools to connect with them?
Researchers from Macedonia had a poster at the 72nd Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association; it was “Social Media and Diabetes: Can We Improve Glucose Control in Adolescents on Pump Therapy? One Year Experience.”1
The social media tools examined were Skype and Facebook. The researchers also studied Carelink (from Medtronic).
The 78 adolescents involved in the study all had type 1 diabetes, and they all used Medtronic PRT (insulin pump plus glucose sensor). They were aged 14 to 23 years, and at the beginning of the study, they were randomized into 2 groups: regular visits (Group 1) and Internet visits (Group 2).
In Group 1, there were 40 subjects, and they received standard medical treatment: they visited the clinic, where their pump data was downloaded and any pump adjustments or other interventions were done.
Group 2 had 38 subjects, and they all used the Carelink program, and data was downloaded by the patient at home and the doctor in the office. Any interventions were done via Skype and Facebook (using the private message and chat functions).
Both study groups had A1c assessed at baseline and then every 3 months during the 1-year study.
Did Social Media Improve Blood Glucose Control?
In Group 1, regular visits were 2.4 ± 1.3 per patient/month; in group 2, it was 2.6 ± 1.6 per patient/month.
Both groups showed significant improvement in A1c. Group 1 went from 7.45 ± 0.9 at baseline to 6.22 ± 0.8 at 1-year. Group 2 went from 7.68 ± 1.1 at baseline to 6.09 ± 1.0 at 1-year (p < 0.05 for all). The most significant improvement was seen in the first 6 months of the interventions, and then the adolescents were able to maintain these improvements for the rest of the study period.
The adolescents in the Internet visits group enjoyed this method of communication and found it useful.
What This Study Means for Current Practice
When considering how to help adolescent type 1 diabetes patients achieve better control, it may be necessary to think about which tools are most useful for them. If they prefer to use technology such as Facebook in order to connect and check on compliance, it may be something to look into.