1 September 2015

Activity monitor embedded in healthcare for diabetics and lung patients is extremely effective

While getting more daily exercise can improve overall physical fitness, reduce symptoms and enhance quality of life, diabetics and lung patients often find this difficult due to obesity or shortness of breath. A specially developed tool has proven very effective, prompting participants to exercise an average of 11 minutes longer per day. These were the results of an evaluation study conducted in 24 general medical practices by PhD candidates Sanne van der Weegen and Renée Verwey, who hope to obtain their degrees on 16 September at Maastricht University.

The tool consists of an activity monitor that can be wirelessly connected to a smartphone and an online coaching system. Users can use a specially developed app and website to track how many minutes they exercise in relation to their personal goals. The tool has been embedded into a healthcare programme that includes additional consultations with primary care assistants who can use the coaching system to monitor their patients’ activity results.

In her dissertation, Sanne van der Weegen describes studies on the tool's development and usability tests, and on the validation of the activity monitor. As the tool was developed in close consultation with patients and healthcare practitioners, it is tailored to their specific needs and experiences. Seeing an objective overview of how much exercise they get, setting concrete goals and receiving support from the primary care assistant stimulates patients to move more.

In her dissertation, Renée Verwey describes the studies carried out to develop the counselling protocol for primary care assistants and to develop and test the online coaching system. She found that primary care assistants were enthusiastic about using the programme and the system to encourage their patients to become more active. They view the objective activity information as an added value that helps them offer patients more tailored support.

Both dissertations include a description of the evaluation study and the process evaluation. These studies reveal that the combined intervention approach increased the average daily exercise time by 11 minutes in people with COPD or type 2 diabetes compared to people who received standard care. It also revealed that both patients and primary care assistants found the intervention to be of value.

Maastricht University and Limburg-based companies Sananet and Maastricht Instruments jointly developed the Interactive Tool for Self-management through Lifestyle Feedback, or It’s LiFe! The project was financed by ZonMW as part of its New Healthcare Instruments programme.

Van der Weegen will defend her dissertation titled, ‘Get moving! Self-management support using mobile technology; A monitoring and feedback tool embedded in a counselling protocol to increase physical activity of patients with COPD or type 2 diabetes in primary care: the It’s LiFe! study’ at 14.00 on Wednesday 16 September at Maastricht University.

Verwey will defend her dissertation titled, ‘Get moving! Self-management support using mobile technology; A counselling protocol extended with a web-based coaching system to promote physical activity in patients with COPD or type 2 diabetes in primary care: the It’s LiFe! study’ at 15.15 on Wednesday 16 September at Maastricht University.