Health

Finetune your diabetes management system for long-term results

Patients can find it hard to adapt to a new lifestyle after a diabetes diagnosis - monitoring, education and support can be made easier with a unified solution

Lifestyle modifications play a major role when it comes to achieving and maintaining good diabetes control.

It is important for patients to take an active role in their treatment plan.

There is an increasing need for a unified platform that allows doctors and healthcare professionals to work with patients together.

Empowering patients with relevant skills to use the information learnt in a practical manner is the key, which then helps to bring out positive behaviour modifications, producing lasting results.

Why is it challenging to improve patient compliance for better diabetes management?

According to a National Healthcare Group fact sheet released in December 2017, seven in 20 newly diagnosed diabetes patients do not adhere to medication.

This lower adherence is associated with a higher hospitalisation risk.

According to a National Healthcare Group fact sheet released in December 2017, seven in 20 newly diagnosed diabetes patients do not adhere to medication.

One of the reasons was that they may think it is not important to take the medication as instructed if they do not feel or see it as having an effect on their condition.

Another was that while adjusting to the anti-diabetes medication, patients may experience side effects due to low blood sugar. As a result, some may stop taking their medication without informing their doctor.

For such cases, there is a need for consistent home blood glucose monitoring and support from a care team in real time.

For example, home blood glucose monitoring helps to track and provide patients and caregivers with visible information on blood sugar control.

They then can see the importance of taking medication regularly and the need for other lifestyle modifications such as dietary intake and physical activity.

We need a cohesive platform where patients can easily monitor and share their readings in real time to their care provider.

The team can then advise patients on how to recognise and manage low blood sugar symptoms, and how to regulate their medication in relation to their eating habits in real time, without the need for patients to wait for their next doctor's appointment.

This can help care providers to increase patient understanding on the multi-factorial management level of diabetes and improve adherence to medication intake.

Why do patients find it difficult to change their eating behaviour ?

Changing someone's dietary intake can be an uphill task, mostly because people are already accustomed to a set array of tastes and food preferences for many years before being diagnosed with diabetes.

There are other areas of concern to work around - cultural background, food dislikes, allergies, intolerances, cooking ability, family and peer support as well as work arrangement.

In my latest review of working with a group of patients with diabetes, it is not only their food intake but also their drink consumption that affected their blood glucose level - which most of them were not aware of.

There can be countless educational materials available, but patients may not be able to use them in their busy everyday lives. They face difficulties in changing their food habits overnight or after just one or two consultations with a dietitian.

They need ongoing support on a real-time platform, which helps them evaluate their actual dietary intake daily with reference to other clinical parameters such as blood sugar level.

There needs to be a level of trust and rapport built between the health providers and the patients even before enlisting them on a journey of long-term behaviour modifications.

How necessary is it to focus on promoting medication reminders and providing emotional support?

When patient compliance to taking medication is poor, having a constant reminder or even highlighting the need for their medication intake by their care team in real time is vital, especially when it is integrated into a mobile app-friendly version.

It is also necessary for the healthcare team to take the role of coaching as well.

They should assess the level of motivation and readiness to change in every patient, and coach them based on that, providing moral support and a conducive environment for learning and behaviour change.

A mobile app that links patients to their care team and doctor in real time can help achieve this.

The writer is a senior clinical dietitian at iHealth (Singapore) Labs, a digital health technology company offering mobile health devices and comprehensive chronic disease management solutions.

MEDICAL & HEALTH