Participatory surveillance of diabetes device safety: a social media-based complement to traditional FDA reporting

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Abstract

Background and objective

Malfunctions or poor usability of devices measuring glucose or delivering insulin are reportable to the FDA. Manufacturers submit 99.9% of these reports. We test online social networks as a complementary source to traditional FDA reporting of device-related adverse events.

Methods

Participatory surveillance of members of a non-profit online social network, TuDiabetes.org, from October 2011 to September 2012. Subjects were volunteers from a group within TuDiabetes, actively engaged online in participatory surveillance. They used the free TuAnalyze app, a privacy-preserving method to report detailed clinical information, available through the network. Network members were polled about finger-stick blood glucose monitors, continuous glucose monitors, and insulin delivery devices, including insulin pumps and insulin pens.

Results

Of 549 participants, 75 reported device-related adverse events, nearly half (48.0%) requiring intervention from another person to manage the event. Only three (4.0%) of these were reported by participants to the FDA. All TuAnalyze reports contained outcome information compared with 22% of reports to the FDA. Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia were experienced by 48.0% and 49.3% of participants, respectively.

Discussion

Members of an online community readily engaged in participatory surveillance. While polling distributed online populations does not yield generalizable, denominator-based rates, this approach can characterize risk within online communities using a bidirectional communication channel that enables reach-back and intervention.

Conclusions

Engagement of distributed communities in social networks is a viable complementary approach to traditional public health surveillance for adverse events related to medical devices.

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