Digital health interventions for adults with type 2 diabetes: A qualitative study of patient perspectives on diabetes self-management education and support

Kingshuk Pal, Charlotte Dack, Jamie Ross, Susan Michie, Carl May, Fiona Stevenson, Andrew Farmer, Lucy Yardley, Maria Barnard, Elizabeth Murray

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Background: The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing globally, and health services in many countries are struggling with the morbidity, mortality, and costs associated with the complications of this long-term condition. Diabetes self-management education (DSME) and behavioral support can reduce the risks of developing diabetes-related complications and improve glycemic control. However, their uptake is low. Digital health interventions (DHI) can provide sustained support and may overcome challenges associated with attending diabetes self-management sessions. They have the potential for delivery at multiple locations at convenient times, anonymity, and presentation of content in attractive and tailored formats. This study investigates the needs and wants of patients with type 2 diabetes to inform the development of digital self-management education and support. Objective: The objective of this study was to explore patient perspectives on unmet needs for self-management and support and the role of DHI in adults living with type 2 diabetes. Methods: This study used a qualitative approach based on data generated from 4 focus groups with 20 patients. Results: The data generated by the focus groups illustrated the significant burden that the diagnosis of diabetes places on many patients and the negative impacts on their emotional well-being, work, social life, and physical health. Although patients' experiences of the health care services varied, there was agreement that even the best services were unable to meet all users' needs to support the emotional regulation, psychological adjustment, and behavioral changes needed for successful self-management. Conclusions: By focusing on medical management and information provision, existing health care services and education programs may not be adequately meeting all the needs of patients with type 2 diabetes. DHIs have the potential to improve access to DSME and behavioral support and extend the range of content offered by health services to fit with a wider range of patient needs. Features that could help DHIs address some of the unmet needs described by participants in this study included placing an emphasis on emotional and role management, being available at all times, having up-to-date evidence-based guidance for patients, and providing access to peer-generated and professional advice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere40
Pages (from-to)e40
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2018


  • Diabetes mellitus
  • EHealth
  • MHealth
  • Patient education
  • Qualitative research
  • Self-management
  • Type 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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