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'Bite-sized' health films can boost diabetes self-management

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Watching short health information films online, via smartphone or tablet, can help patients with type 2 diabetes reduce their blood glucose level, according to a small pilot study by UK researchers.

Their study found a clinically significant improvement in HbA1c among patients who watched one or more of the films about living with diabetes on their computer, tablet or smartphone.

“The result of this service evaluation is highly encouraging”

Jeffrey Stephens

Film-watching was associated with a mean difference in HbA1c of minus 9mmol/mol. A strong correlation was also observed between the number of films watched and the reduction in HbA1c.

In contrast, no reduction in HbA1c was observed in the non-watchers, said the study authors from Swansea University.

The study was undertaken in collaboration with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, and Hywel Dda University Health Board. It was also supported by the Diabetes UK.

The study, published in the journal Primary Care Diabetes, involved 11 films in the “Living with diabetes” series developed by the firm eHealth Digital Media.

The self-management films were produced by the firm in partnership with the researchers. Each one was reviewed by expert patients and frontline healthcare professionals before distribution.

“Each motivational film can be watched by patients and carers as many times as required”

Sam Rice

They included titles such as What is diabetes? What can I eat? Diabetes and weight, Looking after your feet, Stopping smoking, Medication and monitoring.

The study involved patients with newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetes at two GP practices within Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and Hywel Dda University Health Board.

During a consultation with the practice nurse, 68 patients were “prescribed” film-watching alongside standard treatments, of which 19 reported watching the films and 49 did not watch any.

The nurse talked through the nature of the films and explained that a routine blood test would be repeated after a three-month period to monitor health outcomes.

At follow-up, HbA1c levels in the intervention group had fallen by 7.4 mmol/mol on average, but had risen by 1.7mmol/mol among the control patients.

In addition, the study found that 28% people watched at least one film within three months of being “prescribed” the film-watching intervention.

The level of uptake compares favourably with highly-regarded and structured educational programmes, where studies show attendance can be as low as 1% patients, claimed the authors.

Diabetes UK

‘Bite-sized’ health films can boost diabetes self-management

Sam Rice

Study author Dr Sam Rice said: “Digital prescriptions encourage people to access expert health information, practical advice and emotional support from the comfort of their own home.

“Each motivational film can be watched by patients and carers as many times as required and, crucially, at a time when the individual faces a new health challenge,” he said.

Dr Rice added, “With patient self-management widely recognised as an increasingly important treatment it is encouraging to see that this low cost and scalable solution is reaching many more patients than would otherwise be the case.

“Through further research, we may even find that the success of the film-watching becomes a stepping-stone to facilitate and encourage people living with a chronic disease to attend more structured educational programmes.”

Fellow study author Professor Jeffrey Stephens said: “The result of this service evaluation is highly encouraging. The overall improvement in HbA1c indicates that film-watchers are more informed, motivated and committed to change their behaviour.”

Swansea University

‘Bite-sized’ health films can boost diabetes self-management

Jeffrey Stephens

He added: “This small-scale but real-world study suggests that the prescription of an online health information film, alongside standard treatment, can afford significant benefits to the growing number of people who live with one or more chronic condition.”

Joanna Lewis, co-founder and commercial director of eHealth Digital Media, said the firm was talking with many clinical commissioning groups about the “potential benefits of film-based prescribing”.

She added that the firm had already received Welsh government funding to allow all NHS Wales patients to access the “Living with diabetes” and “Living with lymphoedema” film series.

They were also available from Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust.

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