A new study in China showed that text messages helped those with diabetes and coronary heart disease better manage their blood glucose levels. The study was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
The researchers studied 502 people from 34 hospitals in China. After six months of receiving six motivational text messages per week, 69.3 percent of those receiving the messages achieved target A1C levels, while just 52.6 percent of the control group did. The control group only received two texts per month thanking them for participating in the study.
Nearly all (97%) of participants found the text messages useful.
The text messages included lifestyle advice, motivational quotes, diabetes management information, and help setting goals and managing stress.
“Lifestyle advice such as strict dietary control may have contributed to glycemic improvements, together with reminders to monitor blood glucose regularly. The messages were designed to provide information and motivation, and help patients set goals and manage stress,” said Dr. Xiqian Huo of Fuwai Hospital in Beijing.
Other texting programs
Another text messaging program in the U.S. has implemented a similar strategy.
Dr. Susan Blank founded the The BEATDiabetes pilot program in Virginia in 2017. The program sends type 2 patients daily reminders, tips, and encouragement. In addition, participants can win money for achieving certain goals.
Blank was an endocrinologist who noticed how hard it was to get diabetes patients to follow through on their treatment, diet, and exercise. She got the idea to use text messages based on previous studies and on the concept of nudging.
The text messages are short and sweet and encourage people to take healthy steps, check their blood sugar, and keep up with their insulin shots. Patients can even create personalized messages that the app automatically sends to them later. Patients in the BEATDiabetes program have seen A1C improvements between 0.8 and 1.0 points.
With the success of text messages for diabetes and heart disease in these cases, researchers are hopeful that the same tactics can be applied to other populations and health conditions.