Digital dilemma faces new diabetes treatments

11 May 2018

Outdated legal and policy frameworks are preventing health professionals and patients from using digital treatment options such as mobile phone apps.

University of Queensland researchers have investigated the challenges facing patients and clinicians who want to use digital interventions for diabetes care.

UQ Centre for Health Services Research research fellow Dr Farhad Fatehi said advances in e-health had great potential to improve patient care for diabetics.

“Digital treatment technologies can improve efficiency, meaning existing health staff and hospitals can serve more people,” Dr Fatehi said.

“These technologies also enable us to provide personalised care tailored to each patient.”

The investigation found that health systems worldwide were slow to adopt new digital technology because there were no supporting policy and legal frameworks.

“Even if new technologies such as mobile phone apps or online chat bots can be used by patients and doctors, there were some issues with the laws and policies governing them,” he said.

“For example, we identified serious issues around security and privacy of the information collected by these new technologies.

“Problems like these require new policies and updated laws to be properly managed.”

Dr Fetehi said more research was required to prove the benefits of new technologies to policy makers, and future studies should include information to help make policy change easier.

“We found a lack of high quality empirical evidence supporting the benefits of these new technologies for diabetes sufferers, potentially causing reluctance among policy makers for change,” he said.

“Future studies should include both evidence of the benefits of these new digital technologies and key information for policy makers and health managers.” 

Dr Fatehi said policy makers needed practical suggestions to speed up the adoption of new technologies.

“Often there is no business model or reimbursement model for using a new treatment,” he said.

“So if a doctor performs a remote consultation or provides a clinical recommendation to a patient through digital means, they are usually unable to receive a refund or get reimbursed.”

The review is published in Current Diabetes Report.

Media: Farhad Fatehi,, +61 430 992 014; Faculty of Medicine Communications, Claire Usmar,, +61 7 3365 5118.