PARTNERS HEALTHCARE CENTER FOR CONNECTED HEALTH AWARDED MCKESSON FOUNDATION GRANT TO DEVELOP TEXT MESSAGING PROGRAM FOR DIABETES PATIENTS

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Healthcare IT and Technology News October 25, 2011. The Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners HealthCare, today announced it has received a research grant from the McKesson Foundation’s Mobilizing for Health initiative, to develop a text messaging program to help diabetes patients better manage their condition. The goal of the Mobilizing for Health initiative is to improve health outcomes among under-served patients with chronic diseases using mobile health (mHealth) technologies that have proven successful. The grant program aims to provide a clearer understanding of how mobile phones can be used to improve health outcomes, and study findings could indirectly impact millions of patients around the world.

“We are honored to have been selected by the McKesson Foundation as a 2011 grant recipient,” said Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Director, Center for Connected Health. “Our experience with text messaging programs in underserved patient populations is demonstrating great potential for providing low-cost, accessible educational messaging to patients, and we applaud the Foundation for their support of innovative, technologydriven solutions for chronic disease management.” “The Mobilizing for Health research grants allow us to increase the evidence base for mobile health interventions,” said Carrie Varoquiers, President of the McKesson Foundation. “The use of mobile phones in healthcare seems very promising, especially in low-income populations with chronic diseases, but we need to better understand what works before these interventions can be scaled.”

The Center’s randomized, controlled clinical trial will integrate a text messaging program into an existing Diabetes Self-Management and Education (DSME) program at three of Massachusetts General Hospital’s community health centers representing medically underserved and low-income populations in the Boston area. The goal of this study is to assess the effect of personalized text messages on clinical outcomes and physical activity in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, many of whom are obese or have low levels of activity. Results will be measured by change in HbA1c (the clinical measure for blood sugar control), as well as patients’ engagement, usability and satisfaction with the program. This study will also use pedometers to measure physical activity, to better target messages to engage patients in behavior change to increase their activity levels. Text messages will include coaching to improve activity levels, and reminder, educational and motivational messages to help patients meet their diabetes selfmanagement goals. The text messages, offered in English or Spanish, will be personalized for each patient based on their initial stage of behavior change, or willingness to change behavior.

“While DSME programs have shown to reduce complications, improve diabetes selfmanagement and quality of life, diabetic patients are likely to discontinue recommended behavior changes without ongoing support,” noted Kamal Jethwani, MD, MPH, Lead Research Scientist, Center for Connected Health, and Principal Investigator for this study. “By adding two key connected health cornerstones – objective data collection and targeted personalized feedback – we believe that patients will adopt new behaviors sooner and maintain healthy behavior for longer. And, because text messaging is a lowcost, widely available technology, we hope to improve the overall quality of diabetes management for a larger pool of patients.”

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