Digital Health Interventions for People With Type 2 Diabetes to Develop Self-Care Expertise, Adapt to Identity Changes, and Influence Other’s Perception: Qualitative Study

Sophie Turnbull*, Patricia J Lucas, Alastair D Hay, Christie Cabral

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Background: A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) results in widespread changes to a person’s life and can be experienced as an assault on their sense of self. The resources available to an individual influence how the individual adapts to their diabetic identity and subsequently engages in self-care. Digital interventions can be viewed as a resource that people can draw on to adapt to the diagnosis. However, there is an indication that people from disadvantaged groups find digital health technologies more challenging to access and use, which may increase health inequalities.

Objective: This study aims to gain insights into how and why people with T2D use digital self-care technology and how experiences vary between individuals and social groups.

Methods: A purposive sample of people who had used a digital intervention to help them self-care for their T2D were recruited for the study. Semistructured interviews were conducted, and data were analyzed thematically.

Results: A diverse sample of 21 participants were interviewed. Participants used digital interventions to help them to understand and feel more in control of their bodies. Digital interventions were used by participants to project their chosen identity to others. Participants selected technology that allowed them to confirm and enact their preferred positive identities, both by avoiding stigma and by becoming experts in their disease or treatment. Participants preferred using digital interventions that helped them conceal their diabetes, including by buying discrete blood glucose monitors. Some participants used technology to increase their sense of power in their interaction with clinicians, whereas others used technology to demonstrate their goodness.

Conclusions: The technology that people with T2D have access to shapes the way they are able to understand and control their bodies and support preferred social identities.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere21328
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume22
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • social identity
  • diabetes mellitus
  • internet-based intervention
  • health care disparities
  • socioeconomic factors
  • self care

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