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Verdict still out on usefulness of diabetes apps

Verdict still out on usefulness of diabetes apps

February 2015 – With a slew of apps on the market purporting to help people manage their diabetes better, a group of Canadian researchers are determining whether pharmacists and patients think these programs have merit.

In the first part of the study, researchers interviewed pharmacists who are certified diabetes educators to get feedback on a number of diabetes-related phone apps currently on the market. In part 2, a group of diabetes patients were asked to assess the usefulness and usability of one of those pharmacist-recommended apps.

“Part one was to get a sense of who is specializing and what they’re recommending,” says pharmacist Certina Ho, one of the study’s lead researchers and a Project Manager at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada. “Next we wanted to focus on type 2 diabetes patients in particular because we think using technology can help with their lifestyle choices and disease management.”

The preliminary results of part two of the study, presented in February at the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists’ Professional Practice Conference in Toronto, showed that patient opinions were split on the usefulness of the app. While one said there was no impact another said it helped facilitate communication with other healthcare providers. Ho says some of the negative feedback could also be attributed to the higher age demographic of participants (patients ranged from 51-64).

“Even though the pharmacist recommended it, [using these apps] is very individualized,” says Ho. “Still, I believe pharmacists do have an impact if they see this a good means for communication and getting into a dialogue with patients.”

Ho says her group will continue to build on the study by trying to attract some younger patient participants. “This trend with smartphones isn’t going away,” she says. “We rely on them so why not use them as a means to talk to patients.”

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