For Teens with Diabetes, Texting = Taking More Meds

August 12, 2010

A small pilot study found that adolescents with diabetes who received customized text messages related to their medication plan were more likely to adhere to treatment.

An endocrinologist has tapped into the texting habits of teens to help increase compliance in taking diabetes medications.

In a small pilot study, Jennifer Dyer, MD, MPH, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, found that adolescents with diabetes who received weekly, customized text messages related to their medication plan were more likely to adhere to treatment.

Dyer sent personalized questions and reminders specific to diabetes adherence activities in addition to friendly, supportive messages to her patients. By asking questions about glucose testing, meal boluses, and frequency of high and low glucoses, she has seen an increase in teens taking their medications.

“If adolescent diabetes patients do not adhere to their treatment and medication plan, it can result in difficulty concentrating in school or functioning throughout the day,” said Dyer in a press release. “Excellent control and treatment can have a long term positive effect on a patient with diabetes.”

In addition to overall treatment adherence, Dyer also reported improved blood glucose levels in those who participated in the three-month study.

These findings could have significant implications. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a significant correlation has been found between increased independence and decreased treatment adherence in adolescents. With the average teen sending about 50 texts each day, there is an opportunity to address the difficulties this demographic has in adhering to treatment and medication activities.

“This form of communication allows for real-time health management which is extremely valuable for patients that suffer from a chronic illness like diabetes,” said Dyer, also a principal investigator in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Dyer has applied for an internal grant in order to test an iPhone application that she has developed that will allow endocrinologists to send personalized, yet automated texts to several patients at a certain time.