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Putting quality of life measures at the heart of diabetes technology research

Research on diabetes technology often focuses just on its impact on diabetes management. But a new study has been exploring how important it is to measure how people living with type 1 diabetes feel about using tech and its impact on their quality of life.

Living with type 1 diabetes is relentless. But diabetes technology, like continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and insulin pumps, has started to revolutionise how people manage the condition. Research has shown that tech can help people to reach their blood sugar targets. But blood sugar levels don’t tell the whole story.

For people living with diabetes, the impact of tech on their wellbeing and day-to-day life can be just as, if not more, important than the impact on their blood sugar levels. But our Diabetes Research Steering Groups (DRSGs) have found that all too often this is being overlooked in diabetes tech research.

Looking at different targets

Person-reported outcome measures, or PROMs, let researchers capture how people with diabetes are feeling and their experiences. PROMs measure factors like emotional wellbeing, how satisfied people are with their treatment, and quality of life. To find out more about the impact of diabetes tech on PROMs, DRSG member Dr Ramzi Ajjan and a team reviewed past studies on diabetes tech. The tech they investigated included CGM, flash glucose monitoring, insulin pumps, and hybrid closed loops. Some of the different PROMs studies measured general quality of life, diabetes distress, satisfaction with treatment, anxiety and depression, quality of sleep, and fear of hypos.

Their review found that most studies on diabetes tech focus on using blood sugar levels to measure how tech can help people with diabetes, while PROMs haven’t been prioritised.

PROMs, however, showed that diabetes tech often helps to improve quality of life for people living with type 1 diabetes, by reducing the burden of managing diabetes and addressing fear of hypos and diabetes distress.

The team also found that technology, especially in the learning period, can sometimes be a burden, and that the additional data it provides can be overwhelming for some people. But PROMs can help healthcare professionals and researchers to measure this and tailor care for each individual.

This study has highlighted that PROMs should be centre stage in tech research, instead of just blood sugar targets. They could be valuable tools to help keep track of how people living with diabetes are feeling, what kind of support they might need, and who technologies would benefit most.

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