Secure Messaging for Diabetes Management: Content Analysis

JMIR Diabetes. 2023 Mar 23;8:e40272. doi: 10.2196/40272.


Background: Secure messaging use is associated with improved diabetes-related outcomes. However, it is less clear how secure messaging supports diabetes management.

Objective: We examined secure message topics between patients and clinical team members in a national sample of veterans with type 2 diabetes to understand use of secure messaging for diabetes management and potential associations with glycemic control.

Methods: We surveyed and analyzed the content of secure messages between 448 US Veterans Health Administration patients with type 2 diabetes and their clinical teams. We also explored the relationship between secure messaging content and glycemic control.

Results: Explicit diabetes-related content was the most frequent topic (72.1% of participants), followed by blood pressure (31.7% of participants). Among diabetes-related conversations, 90.7% of patients discussed medication renewals or refills. More patients with good glycemic control engaged in 1 or more threads about blood pressure compared to those with poor control (37.5% vs 27.2%, P=.02). More patients with good glycemic control engaged in 1 more threads intended to share information with their clinical team about an aspect of their diabetes management compared to those with poor control (23.7% vs 12.4%, P=.009).

Conclusions: There were few differences in secure messaging topics between patients in good versus poor glycemic control. Those in good control were more likely to engage in informational messages to their team and send messages related to blood pressure. It may be that the specific topic content of the secure messages may not be that important for glycemic control. Simply making it easier for patients to communicate with their clinical teams may be the driving influence between associations previously reported in the literature between secure messaging and positive clinical outcomes in diabetes.

Keywords: T2D; communication; diabetes; diabetic control; disease outcomes; engagement; glycemic control; health information; management; message content; messaging; patient portal; patient-provider communication; secure messaging; support; veterans.