How could technology help Latinos manage diabetes?

Diabetes affects more than 29 million people in the United States, with certain groups–like Latinos–disproportionately affected. Latinos are almost twice as likely to suffer from…
How could technology help Latinos manage diabetes?

Latinos and the use of technology in the fight against diabetes. (Shutterstock)

Diabetes affects more than 29 million people in the United States, with certain groups–like Latinos–disproportionately affected. Latinos are almost twice as likely to suffer from this metabolic disease compared to non-Latino whites, experiencing high rates of risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol and cigarette smoking.

The Office of Minority Health (OMH) indicates Latinos have higher rates of end-stage renal disease, caused by diabetes, and they are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes as non-Latino whites.

SEE ALSO: Hispanic obesity won’t stop until this is addressed, say experts

Despite the barriers that traditionally have kept Latinos from seeking diabetes care and diagnosis, new research says there are ways to reduce the disparity–primarily through the use of technology. According to a study from research company Software Advice, Latinos are more than willing to use tech-based tactics to aid in diabetes prevention and treatment.

Latinos participants indicated they wanted access to their medical records online, desired personalized email communication about risk management, and would be willing to send their doctors health information such as blood glucose readings or blood pressure testing over the Internet.

“This is exciting, because it can enable a practice to monitor the care and risk for a whole population of patients,” said Dr. Stephen Persell, M.D., who was not involved with the research, but whose own study inspired the current. “It can make the information available to the right people at the right time.”

Key findings of the study included:

  • More than half (60 percent) of Latinos are interested in tracking diabetes-related risk factors by independently accessing their medical records online.
  • Nearly three-quarters of Latinos (71 percent) would be more likely to try to lower their diabetes risk if their physician sent a personalized risk assessment.
  • Fifty-four percent of Latinos say they would log and send personal health information electronically at their doctor’s recommendation.

Previous research has already proven the benefits to self-reporting weight management information online, and experts say Latinos could certainly benefit from such technology. Latinos are 1.2 times as likely as non-Latino whites to be overweight or obese, according to the OMH, with Mexican Americans the most highly affected. Among Mexican American women, 78 percent are overweight or obese, as compared to only 60.3 percent of the non-Latino white women.

Dr. David Harlan, M.D. of the UMass Memorial diabetes care team have already pioneered their own version of online health reporting, and Dr. Harlan says convenience of use makes all the difference in health reporting.

“Using the MyCareTeam-based communication tool, we find that we are able to interact with patients before glycemia extremes require urgent attention—[which] might have, in the past, required a visit by emergency medical personnel or an emergency room visit,” explained Dr. Harlan in the report.”The ultimate goal of patient-friendly apps accessible through the [EHR] is that the metrics may help each individual achieve better health by providing moment-to-moment feedback.”

SEE ALSO: Hispanics don’t let diabetes dampen their day

Online resources would allow Latinos easier access to information as well, and the Software Advice researchers indicated diabetes knowledge is the most important part of health compliance. Doctors should use online tools to help Latinos not only manage their conditions, but to understand their health risks.

“These results show there are many EHR-enabled opportunities for doctors to engage Latino patients in taking a proactive role regarding diabetes prevention and/or treatment,” wrote researchers in their conclusion. “These technology-based tactics may be relatively new or still under development, but our findings show most are willing to use them to varying degrees.”