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Diabetes online: improving psychological support for patients

Researchers at King’s College London and King’s College Hospital have been awarded funding by the Health Foundation to develop a pioneering online tool to provide psychological support for people with diabetes.

Currently, around half of people with diabetes struggle with achieving effective blood glucose control, and this increases their risk of getting diabetes complications. Managing diabetes is complex and demanding and many people develop psychological barriers towards it. 

Research from King’s has already shown that specially trained nurses delivering face to face Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help patients improve their blood glucose control.

This collaborative project takes this research into the modern busy world that patients live in. It aims to improve glycaemic control and psychological well-being through integrating psychological and diabetes care, delivered by a nurse using internet-based health systems, without patients having to attend many face to face appointments.

The Diabetes Online Therapy (DOT) project has been selected by the Health Foundation for its highly competitive SHINE programme, and will receive £75,000 of development funding.

Professor Khalida Ismail, who leads the Diabetes and Mental Health research programme at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London and is a consultant psychiatrist at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will be leading the pilot with Dr Anne Doherty, Consultant Psychiatrist at King’s College Hospital.

Professor Ismail says: “Living with diabetes requires lifelong skills in calculating insulin doses and carbohydrate portions, taking into account physical activity. It is therefore understandable that some people may need psychological support from time to time to help them build their confidence towards effective blood glucose control. 

“On the other hand, people with diabetes also have busy lives so trying to find the time and money to travel and attend face-to-face therapy sessions on top of the diabetes appointments is not always possible.

“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.”

Kaylee Lovie, a Diabetes Specialist Nurse at King's College Hospital who will be delivering the text based CBT therapy sessions, says: “The technology is easy to use, and all communication, consultation and appointments are carried out via the online system. The ten sessions that are offered to patients can take place wherever they feel most comfortable and are designed for them to work through their chosen objectives with me, so that they can tackle challenges like the acceptance of diabetes or the self-monitoring of blood glucose.”

“Patients are able to complete homework that I set in between the sessions to build on the work done online, and they can also access the system at any time to remind them of their goals. They are also able to take another look at the consultations at a later date, which can be very helpful if they find themselves slipping back in to some of the negative thoughts and behaviours.”

She adds: “Carrying out the therapy online also increases the number of people we can help meaning that the pilot will also make a more efficient use of hospital resources.”

An NHS Enterprises grant has also been awarded to PsychologyOnline to work with the team to develop the technology and software, and uMotif to investigate the benefit of a health and well-being app.

For further information,  please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK. +44 (0)207 848 5377 /