Original Research

Piloting of virtual group education for diabetes in Cape Town: An exploratory qualitative study

Robert J. Mash, Joleen Cairncross
South African Family Practice | Vol 65, No 1 : Part 1| a5635 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v65i1.5635 | © 2023 Robert J. Mash, Joleen Cairncross | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 September 2022 | Published: 18 January 2023

About the author(s)

Robert J. Mash, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Joleen Cairncross, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Diabetes is a major public health problem. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, patient education and counselling (PEC) for diabetes were curtailed. This project explored the possibility of offering group empowerment and training (GREAT) for diabetes via computer or tablets and Zoom video conferencing. The aim was to explore whether this was feasible in the low-income community context of primary health care in Cape Town, South Africa.

Methods: Three dieticians facilitated four sessions of GREAT for diabetes with a group of five patients with type-2 diabetes. Once the programme was completed, focus group interviews were held with the facilitators and the patients to explore their experience. Interviews were recorded and analysed using a simplified framework method.

Results: Usual primary care was not offering PEC and service delivery was brief and mechanistic. The content, resources and group processes were successfully translated into the virtual environment. The guiding style of communication was more difficult. Patients reported changes in their self-management and appreciated being able to save time and money while participating from home. Patients required considerable support and training to use the technology. All participants were concerned about safety and crime with the hardware.

Conclusion: It was feasible to conduct GREAT for diabetes via tablets and Zoom video conferencing in this low-income community. To implement at scale, a number of concerns need to be addressed. The feasibility of conducting the sessions via smartphone technology should be evaluated.

Contribution: Demonstrates how digital technology could be used to develop new ways of empowering people with type 2 diabetes.


Keywords

diabetes; patient education; counselling; primary care; behaviour change; telemedicine; virtual reality

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