Diabetes Management Apps: Tech Tools or Toys?

Finding reported in the new Mobile Health Applications for Self-Management of Diabetes Report from the Agency For Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The findings raise questions about whether patient, health plan, employer or other amounts invested to acquire and use in these applications as tools to help diabetes patients better manage their disease provide sufficient return on investment.

AHRQ Report Questions Diabetes Management Mobile Apps Effectiveness

Using current diabetes self-management mobile applications generally does not improve the life, blood pressure, weight, or body mass index outcomes of diabetes patients and the effect of the use of these applications is not demonstrated to work any better than health care provider support regardless of the app or type of diabetes. That’s a key finding reported in the new Mobile Health Applications for Self-Management of Diabetes Report (Report) of the Agency For Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The findings raise questions about whether the time and Money patient, health plan, employer or others invest in to acquire and for patients to use these applications as tools to help diabetes patients better manage their disease provide sufficient return on investment are justified.

While hundreds of mobile applications currently are available that purport to help diabetes patients self manage their disease, AHRQ says “patients lack information on which apps are effective in improving diabetes-related outcomes.”

In an effort to address this concern, AHRQ commissioned a review of the efficacy, usability, and features of 11 of hundreds of the currently available commercial applications for diabetes self-management commercially available mobile applications (apps) for diabetes self-management.  The Study evaluated the performance of the applications by reviewing 15 studies/analyses evaluating 11 unique apps: six apps for type 1 diabetes and five for type 2 diabetes.  Two apps had multiple tiers of access (free and paid), which resulted in the evaluation of features of 13 apps. Common features of apps include the ability to track blood glucose, HbA1c, medications, physical activity, and weight. Studies were 2-12 months long.

In addition to the Report, findings from the study also are discussed the Rapid Evidence Review of Mobile Applications for Self-Management of Diabetes article published in the May 3, 2018 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

According to the Report, the findings from this review raise significant questions about the value and effectiveness of diabetes self-management mobile apps.  Significantly, while AHRQ says the study raises significant questions about the efficacy of current diabetes self-management mobile applications, it concludes that the research showed “[p]atients did not experience improvements in quality of life, blood pressure, weight, or body mass index outcomes, regardless of the app or type of diabetes.

Other key findings shared in the report include:

  • Of the 11 apps, studies showed only 5 were associated with clinically significant improvements in HbA1c, an important clinical test for monitoring diabetes. (For Type 1 diabetes- Glucose Buddy, Diabeo Telesage; For Type 2 diabetes- Blue Star, WellTang, Gather Health);
  • For type 1 diabetes, patients had clinically significant improvement in HbA1c if they used either of two apps and statistically significant improvement using one additional app. For type 2 diabetes, patients using any of three apps experienced clinical and statistical improvement in HbA1c.
  • Patients using two apps for type 1 diabetes experienced improvements in hypoglycemic episodes.
  • The quality of studies was variable. Study design and presentation made it difficult to distinguish the effect of the app and the effect of additional interactions with study personnel or health care providers. Of the eight apps available for usability testing, three apps (two for type 1 and one for type 2 diabetes) were scored by researchers as “acceptable,” two apps (type 1 diabetes) as “marginal,” and three apps (one for type 1 and two for type 2 diabetes) as “not acceptable.”
  • More rigorous and longer-term research studies could determine whether apps help people manage their diabetes and reduce complications.
  • Studies had methodological issues: they were short (2-12 months); inconsistent in reporting of randomization, allocation, masking, and drop-out analysis; and often used co-interventions that hindered interpretation of results. None of the included studies are considered to be high quality.

Based on these and other findings from the Study, the Report concludes that while
some apps for diabetes self-management may improve outcomes in the short-term, the effect cannot be distinguished from the concomitant effect of additional support from a health care provider. AHRQ also says more rigorous and longer-term evaluations are needed to determine how these apps affect weight, blood pressure, quality of life, and complications of diabetes.

In light of these findings, patients and health plans, employer and other health plan sponsors, health care providers should weigh critically the value of investing in or relying upon diabetes mobile apps to help patients manage diabetes.  While these apps offer shiny attractiveness as tools, the Report’s findings that evidence does not show these applications produce sustainable improvements in the status of diabetes patients using them suggests that expenditures of time and money to uses these applications may not be justified.  Patients and their families and caregivers also should weigh whether patients relying on these applications may be foregoing seeking or using other measures for management that work more effectively.

About The Author

Recognized by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as a “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%/ the highest) and “Top Rated Lawyer,” with special recognition  as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Health Care,” “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: Erisa & Employee Benefits”  and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, the author of this update is widely known for her 29 plus years’ of work in health care, health benefit, health policy and regulatory affairs and other health industry concerns as a practicing attorney and management consultant, thought leader, author, public policy advocate and lecturer.

Throughout her adult life and nearly 30-year legal career, Ms. Stamer’s legal, management and governmental affairs work has focused on helping health industry, health benefit and other organizations and their management use the law, performance and risk management tools and process to manage people, performance, quality, compliance, operations and risk. Highly valued for her rare ability to find pragmatic client-centric solutions by combining her detailed legal and operational knowledge and experience with her talent for creative problem-solving, Ms. Stamer supports these organizations and their leaders on both a real-time, “on demand” basis as well as outsourced operations or special counsel on an interim, special project, or ongoing basis with strategic planning and product and services development and innovation; workforce and operations management,  crisis preparedness and response as well as to prevent, stabilize and cleanup legal and operational crises large and small that arise in the course of operations. Her experience encompasses  helping health industry clients manage workforce, medical staff, vendors and suppliers, medical billing, reimbursement, claims and other provider-payer relations, business partners, and their recruitment, performance, discipline, compliance, safety, compensation, benefits, and training ;board, medical staff and other governance;   compliance and internal controls; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; change management;  assess, deter, investigate and address staffing, quality, compliance  and other performance;  meaningful use, EMR, HIPAA and other data security and breach and other health IT and data; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party reporting, audits, investigations and enforcement; government affairs and public policy; and other compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns.

The American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting, former Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, past ABA JCEB Council Representative, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has worked closely with a diverse range of physicians, hospitals and healthcare systems, DME, Pharma, clinics, health care providers, managed care, insurance and other health care payers, quality assurance, credentialing, technical, research, public and private social and community organizations, and other health industry organizations and their management deal with governance; credentialing, patient relations and care; staffing, peer review, human resources and workforce performance management; outsourcing; internal controls and regulatory compliance; billing and reimbursement; physician, employment, vendor, managed care, government and other contracting; business transactions; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; licensure and accreditation; vendor selection and management; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy and other concerns.

As a core component of her work,  Ms. Stamer has worked extensively throughout her career with health care providers, health plans and insurers, managed care organizations, health care clearinghouses, their business associates, employers, banks and other financial institutions, management services organizations, professional associations, medical staffs, accreditation agencies, auditors, technology and other vendors and service providers, and others on legal and operational compliance, risk management and compliance, public policies and regulatory affairs, contracting, payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations and matters including extensive involvement advising, representing and defending public and private hospitals and health care systems; physicians, physician organizations and medical staffs; specialty clinics and pharmacies; skilled nursing, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing and management services organizations; consultants; investors; technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, insurers, self-insured health plans and other payers; and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; comply with requirements, investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry investigation, enforcement including  insurance or other liability management and allocation; process and product development, contracting, deployment and defense; evaluation, commenting or seeking modification of regulatory guidance, and other regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement, and a host of other related concerns for public and private health care providers, health insurers, health plans, technology and other vendors, employers, and others.and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also has extensive health care reimbursement and insurance experience advising and defending health care providers, payers, and others about Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare and Medicaid Advantage, Tri-Care, self-insured group, association, individual and group and other health benefit programs and coverages including but not limited to advising public and private payers about coverage and program design and documentation, advising and defending providers, payers and systems and billing services entities about systems and process design, audits, and other processes; provider credentialing, and contracting; providers and payer billing, reimbursement, claims audits, denials and appeals, coverage coordination, reporting, direct contracting, False Claims Act, Medicare & Medicaid, ERISA, state Prompt Pay, out-of-network and other nonpar insured, and other health care claims, prepayment, post-payment and other coverage, claims denials, appeals, billing and fraud investigations and actions and other reimbursement and payment related investigation, enforcement, litigation and actions.

Heavily involved in health care and health information technology, data and related process and systems development, policy and operations innovation and a Scribe for ABA JCEB annual agency meeting with OCR for many years who has authored numerous highly-regarded works and training programs on HIPAA and other data security, privacy and use, Ms. Stamer also is widely recognized for her extensive work and leadership on leading edge health care and benefit policy and operational issues including meaningful use and EMR, billing and reimbursement, quality measurement and reimbursement, HIPAA, FACTA, PCI, trade secret, physician and other medical confidentiality and privacy, federal and state data security and data breach and other information privacy and data security rules and many other concerns.  Her work includes both regulatory and public policy advocacy and thought leadership, as well as advising and representing a broad range of health industry and other clients about policy design, drafting, administration, business associate and other contracting,  risk assessments, audits and other risk prevention and mitigation, investigation, reporting, mitigation and resolution of known or suspected violations or other incidents and responding to and defending investigations or other actions by plaintiffs, DOJ, OCR, FTC, state attorneys’ general and other federal or state agencies, other business partners, patients and others.

Ms. Stamer has worked extensively with health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, their business associates, employers and other plan sponsors, banks and other financial institutions, and others on risk management and compliance with HIPAA, FACTA, trade secret and other information privacy and data security rules, including the establishment, documentation, implementation, audit and enforcement of policies, procedures, systems and safeguards, investigating and responding to known or suspected breaches, defending investigations or other actions by plaintiffs, OCR and other federal or state agencies, reporting known or suspected violations, business associate and other contracting, commenting or obtaining other clarification of guidance, training and enforcement, and a host of other related concerns. Her clients include public and private health care providers, health insurers, health plans, technology and other vendors, and others. In addition to representing and advising these organizations, she also has conducted training on Privacy & The Pandemic for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans, as well as HIPAA, FACTA, PCI, medical confidentiality, insurance confidentiality and other privacy and data security compliance and risk management for Los Angeles County Health Department, MGMA, ISSA, HIMMS, the ABA, SHRM, schools, medical societies, government and private health care and health plan organizations, their business associates, trade associations and others.

A former lead consultant to the Government of Bolivia on its Pension Privatization Project with extensive domestic and international public policy and governmental and regulatory affairs experience, Ms. Stamer also is widely recognized for regulatory and policy work, advocacy and outreach on healthcare, education, aging, disability, savings and retirement, workforce, ethics, and other policies.  Throughout her adult life and career, Ms. Stamer has provided thought leadership; policy and program design, statutory and regulatory development design and analysis; drafted legislation, proposed regulations and other guidance, position statements and briefs, comments and other critical policy documents; advised, assisted and represented health care providers, health plans and insurers, employers, professional. and trade associations, community and government leaders and others on health care, health, pension and retirement, workers’ compensation, Social Security and other benefit, insurance and financial services, tax, workforce, aging and disability, immigration, privacy and data security and a host of other international and domestic federal, state and local public policy and regulatory reforms through her involvement and participation in numerous client engagements, founder and Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Health Policy and its PROJECT COPE: the Coalition on Patient Empowerment, adviser to the National Physicians Congress for Healthcare Policy, leadership involvement with the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Association of Business, the ABA JCEB, Health Law, RPTE, Tax, Labor, TIPS, International Life Sciences, and other Sections and Committees, SHRM Governmental Affairs Committee and a host of other  involvements and activities.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical  staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, privacy and data security, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her thought leadership, experience and advocacy on these and other related concerns by her service in the leadership of the Solutions Law Press, Inc. Coalition for Responsible Health Policy, its PROJECT COPE:  Coalition on Patient Empowerment, and a broad range of other professional and civic organizations including North Texas Healthcare Compliance Association, a founding Board Member and past President of the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence, past Board Member and Board Compliance Committee Chair for the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas; former Board President of the early childhood development intervention agency, The Richardson Development Center for Children (now Warren Center For Children);  current Vice Chair of the ABA Tort & Insurance Practice Section Employee Benefits Committee, current Vice Chair of Policy for the Life Sciences Committee of the ABA International Section, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, a current Defined Contribution Plan Committee Co-Chair, former Group Chair and Co-Chair of the ABA RPTE Section Employee Benefits Group, past Representative and chair of various committees of ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits; a ABA Health Law Coordinating Council representative, former Coordinator and a Vice-Chair of the Gulf Coast TEGE Council TE Division, past Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Committee, a former member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Benefits Association and others.

Ms. Stamer also is a highly popular lecturer, symposium and chair, faculty member and author, who publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry, human resources, employment and other privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management. Examples of her many highly regarded publications on these matters include “Protecting & Using Patient Data In Disease Management: Opportunities, Liabilities And Prescriptions,” “Privacy Invasions of Medical Care-An Emerging Perspective,” “Cybercrime and Identity Theft: Health Information Security: Beyond HIPAA,” as well as thousands of other publications, programs and workshops these and other concerns for the American Bar Association, ALI-ABA, American Health Lawyers, Society of Human Resources Professionals, the Southwest Benefits Association, the Society of Employee Benefits Administrators, the American Law Institute, Lexis-Nexis, Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), InsuranceThoughtLeaders.com, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Texas CEO Magazine, HealthLeaders, the HCCA, ISSA, HIMSS, Modern Healthcare, Managed Healthcare, Institute of Internal Auditors, Society of CPAs, Business Insurance, Employee Benefits News, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other symposia and publications. She also has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for human resources, employee benefit and other management focused publications of BNA, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, Insurance Thought Leadership and many other prominent publications and speaks and conducts training for a broad range of professional organizations.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see here or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Call To Action: Become a Project COPE Healthcare Hero

Follow, like and share our articles and resources in this ProjectCOPE.blog, and follow, like, share your comments and ideas, and participate in our Facebook page @ProjectCOPECOALITION or on LinkedIn to

  • Learn and share tips, tools and other information on how you and your family can manage your health and wellness needs.
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  • Share your ideas and input about health and health coverage issues and policies with elected leaders and regulators?
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  • Get educated! Learn about what’s happening in Washington and communities across the country to help or hurt healthcare quality and access and how you can help make things better or influence how these developments affect people you care about.
  • Get involved and recruit others to join the cause!

Despite an endless stream of well-meaning market and governmental reforms over the past 25 years, the U.S. health care system is in crisis. American patients, their families and other caregivers, their employers, their health benefit programs, their health care providers, the communities and even our federal health care budget increasingly are burdened and overwhelmed by the mounting obstacles to caring for our ill, disabled, and aging citizens within our health care system and the extraordinary expense of maintaining and using that system.

As Congress takes up reform again, it is critical that Americans act to protect their own and their families’ health care and control the financial burdens of health care by getting informed, providing clear and consistent direction to Congress and other reformers and taking other actions to empower and care for themselves and their loved ones within our evolving health care system..

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources here such as:

Author: Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

Management attorney and operations consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer uses a client objective oriented approach to help businesses, governments, associations and their leaders manage performance, operations and risks.

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