Research to investigate impact of online psychological therapy on diabetes distress

Thu, 01 May 2014
Researchers in the UK have received funding to test whether one-to-one psychological therapy can help tackle diabetes distress.

Diabetes distress refers to feelings of disillusion, frustration and anger that can develop as a result of long-term management of diabetes. Over time, these feelings can lead to depression and ultimately a total disregard for diabetes management (diabetes burnout), increasing the risk of serious complications.

Now a newly launched project aims to investigate whether psychological distress in patients with diabetes can be treated effectively with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Ann Hayes, chairman of PsychologyOnline, the UK's leading provider of live online one-to-one CBT, has teamed up with Professor Khalida Ismail, who leads the Diabetes and Mental Health clinical service at King's College Hospital and Bruce Hellman, founder of health and wellbeing app uMotif, for the NHS-backed study which will examine the benefits of real time web-based CBT to people with type 1 diabetes.

"We will be working with King’s College Hospital to train diabetes specialist nurses (DSN) to provide CBT integrated with structured diabetes education and will pilot this approach in a small focused patient study," Hayes explains.

The team has been granted Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI Healthcare) funding and hope their pilot study will lead to improvements in both the psychological wellbeing and blood glucose control of patients with diabetes distress.

Prof Ismail, a specialist in liaison psychiatry who has previously developed e-learning for GPs, says: "Around a third of patients have psychological issues interfering with their confidence to manage their diabetes.

"I am very interested to investigate how online CBT integrated into usual diabetes care delivered by a specialist nurse can be used to provide an effective intervention."

To further empower patients to self-manage their diabetes, the collaborative project will also involve the use of a health and wellbeing app being developed by uMotif. The app helps patients to monitor their condition by tracking blood sugar levels, mood, sleep quality, and physical activity, as well as providing motivational support and reminders about medication.

Once the pilot project has been successfully completed, the team hopes to secure further funding to run a full clinical trial.
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