Mobile-based model of care could revolutionise diabetes care in rural and regional Queensland

29 September 2023

A new smartphone app-based model of care for patients living with Type 2 diabetes is being trialled across rural and regional Queensland following a successful implementation at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

The user-centred model of care includes a smartphone app that links patients with GPs and specialist teams and offers tele-health appointments.

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia and one of the biggest challenges confronting Australians and the health system. The new model of care aims to improve health outcomes for approximately 1.5 million Australians living with Type 2 diabetes.

Developed by a research team led by Professor Anthony Russell and Dr Anish Menon, the model of care was initially trialled at Princess Alexandra Hospital to positive feedback.

“In this second phase of our project, we are excited to trial this technology-based, mobile model of care to patients who live in rural and regional Queensland, areas that might not have immediate access to GPs or specialists that treat people living with Type 2 diabetes,” Dr Menon said.

The program is available in 47 centres across regional and rural Queensland.

The model of care

Patients who participate in the program are initially referred by their GPs. They are asked to download a smartphone app that provides them with remote access to health professionals during business hours.

Patients can connect their blood glucose monitors to the app via Bluetooth, allowing a diabetes nurse to monitor their daily blood glucose readings.

In between appointments, patients and health professionals use the app to monitor patient progress, allow automated SMS text messages to assist with patient self-management based on their blood glucose measures and alert health professionals to initiate contact when required.

“The aim of the app is to reduce the burden on the health care system by improving the self-management of the patient – providing the patient with support outside of traditional clinic visits, case management from a diabetes nurse and a 12-month care plan,” said Dr Menon.

In developing the app, Dr Menon said it had been extremely important that feedback had been received from consumers and health professionals.

For the first phase of the project in metropolitan Brisbane, the project team invited people living with Type 2 diabetes and health professionals from primary care, specialist fields and allied health to help co-design the model of care. Stakeholders attended co-design workshops and participated in interviews to provide feedback on their needs. Phase one was supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Dr Menon said Phase 2 had not used the co-design process but utilised outcomes from the metropolitan trial. Phase 2 was funded by Queensland Advancing Clinical Research Fellowship and Metro South Health Research Support Scheme (MSH RSS) Program Grant by SERTA.

The future

The project team is now setting its sights on using the co-design process to develop a model of care for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. Phase 3 will be centred at the Inala Beacon Clinic in Brisbane’s south and will assess whether the community’s needs differ from diabetes populations in metropolitan areas. The team has already conducted a needs assessment survey with patients with diabetes. Phase 3 is funded by Metro South Health Research Support Scheme (MSH RSS) Program Grant by SERTA.

Dr Menon said he was now collaborating with a team led by Dr Urska Arnautovska and Professor Dan Siskind on a project funded by a grant from Metro South Health Research Support Scheme to develop a model of care for the diabetes population with serious mental illness.

Additionally, Australian Centre for Accelerating Diabetes Innovations (ACADI) will fund a clinical trial at Princess Alexandra Hospital to generate robust evidence for the metropolitan care model in comparison to a similar sized tertiary hospital using a standard diabetes care model. The project team is currently getting ethical and governance approvals.

Dr Menon said by working with Queensland Digital Health Centre (QDHeC) and the Centre for Health Services Research, UQ, there was potential to incorporate cutting edge advances in artificial intelligence to personalise care and improve outcomes for people with diabetes.

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