Diabetes self-management game reduces hemoglobin

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The game was especially useful for patients with high hemoglobin.
The game was especially useful for patients with high hemoglobin.

An online game designed to teach diabetes self-management significantly decreased hemoglobin A1c, a common marker for diabetes control, according to research published in Diabetes Care in August.

Nearly 500 Veterans Affairs patients with Type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to participate in either the game or a control treatment for six months. 

The multiple-choice game asked players questions about topics such as glucose management and medication adherence. When completed, they were shown correct answers with an explanation. Players were ranked on individual and team leaderboards. 

Game participants had a 0.74%  hemoglobin drop compared to the control group's 0.44%. The game's effects were largest for participants who had high hemoglobin levels, 9% or greater, before the study. 

“We've developed an easily scalable intervention that was well accepted among patients and led to sustained improvements in their diabetes control,” said corresponding author B. Price Kerfoot, M.D., EdM, an associate professor of surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital. “This game represents a small time commitment for patients, but potentially a big impact for their health.”

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System conducted the study.