As digital healthcare expands to include the use of mobile devices, there are opportunities to integrate these technologies into the self-management of chronic disease. Purpose built apps for diabetes self-management are plentiful and vary in functionality; they offer capability for individuals to record, manage, display, and interpret their own data. The optimal incorporation of mobile tablets into diabetes self-care is little explored in research, and guidelines for use are scant.
The purpose of this study was to examine an individual's use of mobile devices and apps in the self-management of type 2 diabetes to establish the potential and value of this ubiquitous technology for chronic healthcare.
In a 9-month intervention, 28 patients at a large multidisciplinary healthcare center were gifted internet connected Apple iPads with preinstalled apps and given digital support to use them. They were invited to take up predefined activities, which included recording their own biometrics, monitoring their diet, and traditional online information seeking. Four online surveys captured the participants' perceptions and health outcomes throughout the study. This article reports on the qualitative analysis of the open-ended responses in all four surveys.
Using apps, participants self-curated small data sets that included their blood glucose level, blood pressure, weight, and dietary intake. The dynamic visualizations of the data in the form of charts and diagrams were created using apps and participants were able to interpret the impact of their choices and behaviors from the diagrammatic form of their small personal data sets. Findings are presented in four themes: (1) recording personal data; (2) modelling and visualizing the data; (3) interpreting the data; and (4) empowering and improving health.
The modelling capability of apps using small personal data sets, collected and curated by individuals, and the resultant graphical information that can be displayed on tablet screens proves a valuable asset for diabetes self-care. Informed by their own data, individuals are well-positioned to make changes in their daily lives that will improve their health.