Parents Willing to Adopt Mobile Phone Tech to Track Children's Diabetes

December 15, 2009

Parental concerns and the willingness to adopt mobile-phone-based technology are likely tied to the unmet need of parents, including provider access, limited available information and support, and the complex management of children with diabetes.

In a recent study conducted by the Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners HealthCare, new data revealed that parents of children with diabetes were receptive to using novel health technology - such as a mobile phone that could collect and transmit the child's blood sugar readings to a doctor - to help manage their child's diabetes. This study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

Over two-thirds (69.3%) of the parents of children with Type 1 diabetes (n=125) and Type 2 diabetes (n=77) completing an online survey had a 'very positive' response to the proposed mobile phone glucometer (blood sugar or glucose monitor) prototype. More than half of parents expressed interest in signing up for the service.

Parental concerns and the willingness to adopt mobile-phone-based technology to help monitor and communicate their children's diabetes are likely tied to the unmet need of parents, including provider access, limited available information and support, and the complex management of children with diabetes. Nearly 30% of parents (27.7%) reported they would 'definitely sign up' for the prototype mobile phone glucometer service, and another 27.7% reported they would 'probably sign up.'

"Parents are often the primary caregivers for children with diabetes, and they must learn to adjust their child's treatment based on signs and symptoms, which can vary from day to day. This can be extremely challenging during a child's transition to adolescence," said Alice Watson, MD, MPH, Corporate Manager, Center for Connected Health.

"This study demonstrates that parents of children with diabetes are interested in using mobile phone technology to help manage their child's illness, which further illustrates the belief that technology offers a solution," added Venessa Pena, first author.

Overall, parents expressed most concern with access to their child's provider, with 84.9% of parents wanting shorter waiting times and 78.7% easier phone access to their physician. 77.8% stated they would like to be able to contact their provider via email to discuss their child's diabetes.

"These study results provide strong evidence for the link between current problems in our medical system and the willingness for parents to adopt new technologies that can overcome these problems," said Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, director, Center for Connected Health. "Increased enthusiasm for the use of communications technology in patient care management is helping to overcome traditional barriers to technology adoption, making the use of these technologies in clinical practice more feasible."

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents; about 151,000 people below the age of 20 years old have diabetes (Centers for Disease Control). Each year, more than 13,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The obesity epidemic and a low level of physical activity among young people is contributing to an increasing number of children with type 2 diabetes, a disease usually diagnosed in adults over 40 years old. According to the American Diabetes Association, one in every 400 to 600 children and adolescents has Type 1 diabetes, and 2 million adolescents (1 in 6 overweight adolescents) aged 12-19 have pre-diabetes.

Source: The Center for Connected Health