Preferences for mHealth Technology and Text Messaging Communication in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: Qualitative Interview Study

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Jun 11;23(6):e25958. doi: 10.2196/25958.

Abstract

Background: Individuals with diabetes need regular support to help them manage their diabetes on their own, ideally delivered via mechanisms that they already use, such as their mobile phones. One reason for the modest effectiveness of prior technology-based interventions may be that the patient perspective has been insufficiently incorporated.

Objective: This study aims to understand patients' preferences for mobile health (mHealth) technology and how that technology can be integrated into patients' routines, especially with regard to medication use.

Methods: We conducted semistructured qualitative individual interviews with patients with type 2 diabetes from an urban health care system to elicit and explore their perspectives on diabetes medication-taking behaviors, daily patterns of using mobile technology, use of mHealth technology for diabetes care, acceptability of text messages to support medication adherence, and preferred framing of information within text messages to support diabetes care. The interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. The data were analyzed using codes developed by the study team to generate themes, with representative quotations selected as illustrations.

Results: We conducted interviews with 20 participants, of whom 12 (60%) were female and 9 (45%) were White; in addition, the participants' mean glycated hemoglobin A1c control was 7.8 (SD 1.1). Overall, 5 key themes were identified: patients try to incorporate cues into their routines to help them with consistent medication taking; many patients leverage some form of technology as a cue to support adherence to medication taking and diabetes self-management behaviors; patients value simplicity and integration of technology solutions used for diabetes care, managing medications, and communicating with health care providers; some patients express reluctance to rely on mobile technology for these diabetes care behaviors; and patients believe they prefer positively framed communication, but communication preferences are highly individualized.

Conclusions: The participants expressed some hesitation about using mobile technology in supporting diabetes self-management but have largely incorporated it or are open to incorporating it as a cue to make medication taking more automatic and less burdensome. When using technology to support diabetes self-management, participants exhibited individualized preferences, but overall, they preferred simple and positively framed communication. mHealth interventions may be improved by focusing on integrating them easily into daily routines and increasing the customization of content.

Keywords: diabetes; medication adherence; mobile health; mobile phone; technology.