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A randomized controlled trial to improve unmet social needs and clinical outcomes among adults with diabetes

Patel MR, Zhang G, Heisler M, Piette JD, Resnicow K, Choe H, Shi X, Song P
J Gen Intern Med

Background: Adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes often face financial challenges and other unmet social needs to effective diabetes self-management.

Objective: Whether a digital intervention focused on addressing socioeconomic determinants of health improves diabetes clinical outcomes more than usual care.

Design: Randomized trial from 2019 to 2023.

Participants: A total of 600 adults with diabetes, HbA1c ≥ 7.5%, and self-reported unmet social needs or financial burden from a health system and randomized to the intervention or standard care.

Intervention: CareAvenue is an automated, e-health intervention with eight videos that address unmet social needs contributing to poor outcomes.

Measures: Primary outcome was HbA1c, measured at baseline, and 6 and 12 months after randomization. Secondary outcomes included systolic blood pressure and reported met social needs, cost-related non-adherence (CRN), and financial burden. We examined main effects and variation in effects across predefined subgroups.

Results: Seventy-eight percent of CareAvenue participants completed one or more modules of the website. At 12-month follow-up, there were no significant differences in HbA1c changes between CareAvenue and control group (p = 0.24). There were also no significant between-group differences in systolic blood pressure (p = 0.29), met social needs (p = 0.25), CRN (p = 0.18), and perceived financial burden (p = 0.31). In subgroup analyses, participants with household incomes 100-400% FPL (1.93 (SE = 0.76), p < 0.01), 201-400% FPL (1.30 (SE = 0.62), p < 0.04), and > 400% FPL (1.27 (SE = 0.64), p < 0.05) had significantly less A1c decreases compared to the control group.

Conclusions: On average, CareAvenue participants did not achieve better A1c lowering, met needs, CRN, or perceived financial burden compared to control participants. CareAvenue participants with higher incomes achieved significantly less A1c reductions than control. Further research is needed on social needs interventions that consider tailored approaches to population subgroups.

Patel MR, Zhang G, Heisler M, et al. A randomized controlled trial to improve unmet social needs and clinical outcomes among adults with diabetes. J Gen Intern Med. 2024. Epub ahead of print. DOI:10.1007/s11606-024-08708-8. PMID: 38467918

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Publication year
Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Social Needs/ SDH
Health & Health Behaviors
Complex Patients
Social Determinant of Health
Economic Security
Housing Stability
Study design
Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)