A new app has been launched that will help NHS clinicians to closely support the 400 Croydon women each year who start developing diabetes during pregnancy.
The free-to-download (for patients) app can connect wirelessly to a blood glucose monitor. It enables monitoring and communication between women with the condition and expert clinicians at Croydon University Hospital, who are among the first NHS teams in the country to use this technology. She can add her own messages and the clinicians can stay in touch with her.
It targets a health problem called ‘gestational diabetes’ which occurs in about 1-in-10 pregnancies in Croydon – a rate far higher than England’s national average of 1-in-17. Croydon has many residents of South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or black African descent who are more likely to develop diabetes. Also areas in Croydon are affected by social deprivation, which is strongly linked to diabetes.
Up to half of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes then develop Type 2 diabetes within five years of the birth (1) – in our experience, generally within 2-3 years. Adhering to good management can help prevent long term development of Type 2 diabetes.
A two-year clinical evaluation involving 2,000 women showed the app can empower women and professionals to better monitor and manage the condition, and reduce unnecessary clinic visits by 25%. It can also reduce clinicians’ time spent on administration by 50% while still improving the quality of care (2).
Called GDm-Health, the app is being offered to all women diagnosed with gestational diabetes after the blood test at 28 weeks. It is not used beyond the period of pregnancy.
Thirty pregnant mothers in Croydon have already been given it since it was first offered on 16 October. They find it very useful as colour coding helps them know if their reading is high or normal. Hence they are in control and get faster help if required by the medical team, who can recommend changes to their diet and adjust medications.
Five NHS Trusts to date, including Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, provide this ‘patient-app to clinician’ software system. It is run by its creator, healthcare technology company Sensyne Health (3), which hopes local successes will see it formally adopted across the whole NHS.
Dr Bini Ajay, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist and Lead for Diabetes in Pregnancy at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, said:
"We know that good early management of diabetes can help reduce complications in pregnancy and, if they adhere to it, can prevent long term development of Type 2. This innovative app can help most of the 400 Croydon women each year who develop gestational diabetes. Rather than attending weekly antenatal clinics, they may now only need to come every 3-4 weeks – which gives them a better experience of care.
"We are proud to be among the first areas in England offering this technology but we’ll never be complacent, as diabetes is a huge challenge. Prevention is most important, so we should all try to look after our health and make use of our GPs to spot health problems early.”
Rebecca Thatcher (age 26) is a second-time mother who lives with partner Adam and Son Jai (4 years) in South Croydon. In October 2018 her routine 28-week pregnancy-related glucose test at Croydon University Hospital showed signs of gestational diabetes. Just two days later she had a meeting to prepare her for the app and equipment she would need to start using. She said:
“I was shocked when the results for the glucose test came through. Suddenly you take your health more seriously.
“The app is so straightforward that I sometimes wonder if I’m not using it right – but I seem to be! Four times each day I test a drop of blood from my finger using a special strip and let the glucose meter see the result. The rest is technological magic between my phone and the clinicians, who will contact me if anything needs attention. Naturally, I’ll worry about the health of me and my baby as I didn’t have this the first time around. It is all still new to me but it’s reassuring to be so closely monitored - and from the comfort of your home!”
Lord (Paul) Drayson, CEO of Sensyne Health, commented:
"The overwhelming positive response to GDm-Health from the NHS and from women with gestational diabetes is testament to its clinically led design and the fact it is technology that is addressing an area of urgent, clinical need. We look forward to its wider adoption in the coming months.”
World Diabetes Day will take place on Wednesday 14 November and the Trust will use it to raise awareness of how to prevent and treat diabetes.
- (1) 2015 guidance by the National Institute For Health And Care Excellence.
- (2) As reported by the Oxford Academic Health Science Networks here.
- (3) Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust have been using GDm-Health with success. Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have now also started.