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Self-Management of Diabetes

Friday, August 12, 2016
Laura Rooney

I’m Laura Rooney and for the past 3 months I have been working alongside the people of DHI, interacting with the project teams-gaining an insight into the needs of the health and care sector in Scotland and the needs of the patients who use these services. I am currently undertaking a Master’s in Stratified Medicine and Pharmacological Innovation which was funded by the Stratified Medicine Innovation Centre. As part of my master’s I decided to undertake an industrial placement at DHI. After investigating the different themes of projects at DHI, I decided to focus on the self-management of diabetes.

In these blogposts, I will demonstrate my findings on the quality of support services offered for self-management of diabetes and how digital solutions could be beneficial to those with Diabetes. This blog will focus on educational support for diabetic patients.

The Digital Health and Care Institute is very passionate about supporting people to self-manage their condition more effectively to live longer and happier lives. Diabetes is a condition which affects 5.1% of the Scottish population and is expected to continue to rise. The first step in dealing with diabetes is self-management of their condition. If a patient can self-manage well, they will avoid the nasty complications that come with poor glycaemic control and therefore, alleviate the services within the health service. So taking care of your own health and feeling empowered to do so is an ethos that the NHS want to encourage for people with all types of long term conditions.

First of all, let’s take a moment to define self-management. Self-management, in the context of health and care, is the measures one takes to ensure their condition is kept under control. So for people with diabetes, self-management includes blood-sugar testing, insulin-injecting and taking medication, amongst other duties and doing these at specified time points during the day, if and when required.

So self-management for diabetes is mostly in the control of the person-because they have to manage their own day-to-day care. However, what if someone has difficulty in self-managing their diabetes? In many cases, people who are newly diagnosed need a lot of support in order to:

 

  1. Understand why they need to self-manage and;
  2. How to actually go about putting it into practice.

Although there are educational resources provided by clinicians at the point of diagnosis, there is a lack of engaging content to keep people motivated to continue self-managing properly for the rest of their life. This is particularly the case for young people and teenagers. Educating young diabetics is hugely important because they need the support to understand their condition and how to overcome hurdles they will face. Some of the content provided to newly diagnosed diabetics (for example lots of clinical terms) can be very bewildering and there is an expectation of these people to be able to properly self-manage right away.

So what if we could provide people with diabetes information tailored to them and their needs? Introducing My Diabetes My Way. My Diabetes My Way is a digital diabetes self-management platform where the person has access to a huge range of educational resources including:

  • Definitions of the different types of diabetes
  • Information on how to monitor your diabetes
  • Lifestyle advice for example what to include and avoid in your diet.
  • Medication options

As well as a plethora of resources to fully educate someone on their long term condition, MDMW also provides a link which directs the person to their personal data. This has been achieved because MDMW is linked up to a cloud where all the diabetes data of every person in Scotland is held called the SCI-DC. Having access to their own personal data allows for patient-empowerment which is an integral part of good self-management. MDMW is currently undergoing some extra work to make it more engaging for young people who use the platform. There will be a link to direct these users to a site which tailors to the needs and expectations of these younger users, giving advice on things which are important to them. Having a long term condition at a young age can feel debilitating and so individualised support will allow these people to take control of their condition and enjoy reading the content at the same time!

 

Therefore, in terms of educating people about diabetes and how to control it effectively, DHI are making huge steps. We hope to continue this and we are open to suggestions if anyone has any ideas about how one can digitally enhance educational resources for diabetes patients.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next blog!

 

 Laura