A paper out of the UK entitled "A Virtual Clinic for Diabetes Self-Management: A Study" was published in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The study, conducted by the Warwick Medical School, is not huge in size, nor were the results particularly exciting in and of themselves in a clinical sense, though they were very interesting.. But the study does serve as an important sign post on the utility of those in healthcare not only to keep up with the developments in medicine and healthcare and Web 2.0, but to understand the changes and to connect the dots in terms of what it strategically means for the future.
Methods: For a period of 6 months, 17 patients joined the virtual clinic. The system allowed patients to communicate with health professionals, interact with peers and access information. HbA1c, quality of life, and self-efficacy were monitored at baseline and after 6 months. Questionnaires and qualitative interviews examined patient experiences.
Results: Participants found the virtual clinic easy to use and positively rated its design. Peer support was the most valued aspect and the discussion boards the most used component. All participants highly rated the virtual clinic in terms of improving communication with peers, but few agreed it had improved communication with health care professionals. No significant improvements in physiological and psychological measurements were found. Regarding HbA1c measurements, there was no significant difference found between the pre- and post-test results (P = .53). Mean ADDQoL scores at baseline were -2.1 (SD 1.1, range -3.4 to -0.5) compared to -2.0 (SD 1.2, range, -4.6 to -0.4) post-test (n = 12), (P = .62). Surprisingly, patients’ confidence in their ability to perform self-care tasks was found to be significantly reduced from baseline to follow up (P = .045).
Conclusions: An Internet-based system to aid the management of diabetes appears feasible and well accepted by patients. The pilot study did not identify evidence of an impact on improving quality of life or self-efficacy in patients who used insulin pump therapy.
(J Med Internet Res 2009;11(1):e10)