Credit: Jan Fredrik Frantzen (NST)

Online communities within-reach via mobile phones and the internet, can be easily utilized to help people with chronic disease like diabetes. The approach outlined in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organizations, would cut down healthcare costs and empower patients to manage their condition more effectively.

It is important to provide optimal healthcare for patients with chronic ailments such as, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma while keeping the costs down.

Prevention and early detection of the disease is equally important, and critical as there is no cure to date, and with wireless technology, the condition will be better managed at a stage when progression to a more chronic state can be prevented.

Nilmini Wickramasinghe, who recently joined RMIT University, Australia after 15 years of conducting research in IT and healthcare in the USA is working with Steve Goldberg of INET International Inc., in Canada, to create a wireless system to empower patients that supports patient self-management for diabetes and other diseases.

Diabetes is an important chronic disease increasing in prevalence throughout not only North America but also the world, explained the researcher.

Given the treatment costs for this increasing population, coupled with the increased non-working hours due to treatment requirements, increases in the prevalence of diabetes as is projected are indeed alarming to any healthcare system.

Currently, technology initiatives in healthcare have yielded mixed results, perhaps due to a failure for such approaches to capture the richness, and potential of the modern healthcare environment, rather than an intrinsic flaw in taking an information technology approach, says the researcher.

In a preliminary study of twenty patients, the INET team led by Sheldon Silver, has demonstrated that it is possible for patients to dial in their own blood glucose readings using a mobile phone and to receive timely feedback from their healthcare worker.

The team explains that social networks such as Facebook and Linkedin also plays vital role in getting patients to connect with family, friends and others. The link between this type of community for healthcare management is indeed obvious.

The team plans for a model that would allow an online social network approach to be taken to patient healthcare management.

We are confident that our model is especially important when implementing a technology enable solutions to any healthcare context and thus close by calling for more research in this area, concluded Wickramasinghe and Goldberg.