Background: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) affects 5–10% of pregnancies in the United States. Poorly controlled GDM can lead to serious fetal and maternal complications. Women diagnosed with GDM are asked to form many new self-management habits. Studies have shown that text messaging is an effective, easily accessible way to improve management of diabetes outside of pregnancy, but this method has not been studied in GDM.
Methods: We performed user experience testing of a text messaging program (Txt4GDM), which was created by a multidisciplinary team based on the Health Belief Model. The program includes: 1) reminders to check blood glucoses sent 4 times per day based on self-reported mealtimes, 2) positive feedback for each blood glucose reported by a user (with an algorithm instructing users to contact their care team if too high/low), 3) one educational message and 4) one motivational message per week.
Women with GDM received simulated messages on a study smartphone. Subjects participated in semi-structured interviews about the content and phrasing of text messages. Interview replies were categorized into themes and used to iteratively optimize the program.
Results: 10 women completed user experience testing. All participants thought the program would be useful for women with newly diagnosed GDM and would use it during their first pregnancy with GDM. There were several features of the program that participants particularly liked, which were categorized into two themes: 1) customization of timing of messages and 2) messages including information not adequately covered in routine care (such as healthy snack ideas and exercise).
Several themes emerged from the semi-structured interviews that were used to optimize the program. 1) Further customization of message timing: We added the ability to enter different mealtimes for weekends and weekdays, which was well-received in subsequent iterations. 2) Minimization of jargon: Multiple women did not know what the “M” in GDM stood for, so we removed “GDM” from the messages. 3) Women wanted the messages to be more specifically related to GDM. For example, an educational message said: “Drinking water, instead of soda or juice, is healthy for you.” The phrase “and can help regulate your blood sugar” was added based on participant feedback.
Conclusions: Overall, women with GDM would use the Txt4GDM text messaging program and think it would be helpful for GDM self-management. Based on user feedback, enhanced customization of timing of text message delivery, minimization of jargon, and language specific to GDM in educational messages were added. We are testing the optimized text messaging program in an ongoing usability study.