At Children’s McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center, we have the privilege of helping kids and their families learn how to manage their diabetes so they can live happy, healthy lives. But for some kids, successful monitoring can be a challenge. This is especially true for adolescents.
Teenagers who have diabetes may struggle to feel “normal” around peers, so they aren’t as diligent about testing their blood sugar. Poor management of diabetes can have negative long-term effects.
We know it is important to talk to teens on their terms. So, last year we looked at new ways that technology could help with diabetes management. Smartphones were a logical place to start.
Because of the generosity of donors who recognize the importance of investing in medical innovation, we have been able to pilot the first-ever program that equips teenage patients with a free smartphone that connects to their glucose monitor to track readings and provides reminders of when to test. Most importantly, it also provides an incentive to stick with their treatment — if they miss too many readings, their phone service is temporarily shut off.
By communicating with teens through a device that already is an integral part of their lives, we can influence better health decisions. And although it’s still early on in our trial, we’re already seeing improvement. Teenagers are positively changing their behaviors and taking responsibility for their health. As a physician, that is exciting to see.
Laura Gandrud, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota’s McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center in St. Paul.