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Digital health case study: gestational diabetes

The Oxford Academic Health Science Network is working to ensure an award-winning project which harnesses technology to improve care for women who develop diabetes during pregnancy is more widely available.

Gestational diabetes affects about one in ten pregnancies, but that figure is rising. ‘GDm-health’ helps control blood sugar levels more effectively through real-time monitoring. It was developed in Oxford and is now being adopted at other hospitals in the Oxford AHSN region including those in Reading and Milton Keynes.

The conventional treatment is for the patient to manage and record their blood glucose levels up to six times a day with their medication dose adjusted on fortnightly check-ups in hospital.

With the new GD-m health system the patient takes home a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose meter which they use to pass on readings via a secure internet link. These are reviewed by diabetes specialists who are able to feedback to patients important messages via text. The result is better management of the condition as well as fewer tiring, time-consuming and expensive hospital appointments.

Vanessa Galli-Wara was diagnosed with gestational diabetes towards the end of her pregnancy. She used the new device to monitor her blood sugar levels and pass on comments to the team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Vanessa made adjustments to her diet based on regular feedback from diabetes specialist midwife Katy Bartlett.

Vanessa said: “It was handy to know that I was in constant touch with somebody and that I would get a message if there was something to worry about. Without the kit I wouldn’t have known my results and what my diet was doing to my levels. I would have had to follow a more rigid diet. We live about an hour away so having fewer appointments as a result of using this kit helped a lot.”

The project – a collaboration between Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Oxford with funding from the National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre – received the Best Digital Initiative trophy at the Quality in Care Diabetes Awards in October 2014.

Find out more about the gestational diabetes project in this video and this case study