Jia W, Zhang P, Zhu D, et al. Evaluation of an mHealth-enabled hierarchical diabetes management intervention in primary care in China (ROADMAP): A cluster randomized trial. PLoS Med. 2021 Sep 21;18(9):e1003754. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003754. eCollection 2021 Sep. (Original study)

BACKGROUND: Glycemic control remains suboptimal in developing countries due to critical system deficiencies. An innovative mobile health (mHealth)-enabled hierarchical diabetes management intervention was introduced and evaluated in China with the purpose of achieving better control of type 2 diabetes in primary care.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: A community-based cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted among registered patients with type 2 diabetes in primary care from June 2017 to July 2019. A total of 19,601 participants were recruited from 864 communities (clusters) across 25 provinces in China, and 19,546 completed baseline assessment. Moreover, 576 communities (13,037 participants) were centrally randomized to the intervention and 288 communities (6,509 participants) to usual care. The intervention was centered on a tiered care team-delivered mHealth-mediated service package, initiated by monthly blood glucose monitoring at each structured clinic visit. Capacity building and quarterly performance review strategies upheld the quality of delivered primary care. The primary outcome was control of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c; <7.0%), assessed at baseline and 12 months. The secondary outcomes include the individual/combined control rates of blood glucose, blood pressure (BP), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C); changes in levels of HbA1c, BP, LDL-C, fasting blood glucose (FBG), and body weight; and episodes of hypoglycemia. Data were analyzed using intention-to-treat (ITT) generalized estimating equation (GEE) models, accounting for clustering and baseline values of the analyzed outcomes. After 1-year follow-up, 17,554 participants (89.8%) completed the end-of-study (EOS) assessment, with 45.1% of them from economically developed areas, 49.9% from urban areas, 60.5 (standard deviation [SD] 8.4) years of age, 41.2% male, 6.0 years of median diabetes duration, HbA1c level of 7.87% (SD 1.92%), and 37.3% with HbA1c <7.0% at baseline. Compared with usual care, the intervention led to an absolute improvement in the HbA1c control rate of 7.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] 4.0% to 10.0%) and a relative improvement of 18.6% (relative risk [RR] 1.186, 95% CI 1.105 to 1.267) and an absolute improvement in the composite ABC control (HbA1c <7.0%, BP <140/80 mm Hg, and LDL-C <2.6 mmol/L) rate of 1.9% (95% CI 0.5 to 3.5) and a relative improvement of 21.8% (RR 1.218, 95% CI 1.062 to 1.395). No difference was found on hypoglycemia episode and weight gain between groups. Study limitations include noncentralized laboratory tests except for HbA1c, and caution should be exercised when extrapolating the findings to patients not registered in primary care system.

CONCLUSIONS: The mHealth-enabled hierarchical diabetes management intervention effectively improved diabetes control in primary care and has the potential to be transferred to other chronic conditions management in similar contexts.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Chinese Clinical Trial Registry (ChiCTR) IOC-17011325.

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Physician 6 / 7
Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

An mHealth-based digital platform showed satisfactory results in managing diabetes. This technology could probably be applied for other diseases, specifically non-communicable diseases.

Physician rater

This study is excellent when the system gives you some special device to monitor your disease. The service was provided via the internet and smart devices. This requires exceptional infrastructure and logistic, which is possible in China via the state run logistics. This won't necessarily be applied where diabetes is worse in the world or in the low- and middle-income countries.
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