Chronic disease represents the epidemic of our times. At present about 40 million Americans are limited in their usual activities due to one or more chronic health conditions. The most rampant chronic diseases fundamentally occur due to health risk behaviors.
So far, our country hasn’t handled its chronic care delivery too well, in part because of a failed delivery model. However, this is swiftly changing as a result of recent technological developments enabling health systems to track disease metrics in near real time.
These innovations provide a robust footing for care delivery utilizing integrated practice units, which is needed to navigate the healthcare needs of the 21st century.
In this piece, we will be looking at a few ways technology is transforming the chronic disease management landscape today and which state-of-the-art technological innovations can be leveraged by progressive healthcare providers to help their patients remotely manage chronic diseases.
How is Technology Transforming the Remote Management of Chronic Conditions?
Healthdesign.org predicted that by 2030, close to 60% of baby boomers will be living with at least one chronic condition.
Healthcare practices, both big and small, will have to adapt to the transforming needs of a fast-aging population. The adoption of technology looks promising in ensuring robust chronic disease management and placing more power with patients so they can manage their health better. By seamlessly connecting healthcare providers, care teams, and patients, healthcare technology innovations hold the potential to monitor treatment adherence, augment access to patients’ medical records, keep caregivers updated on how their loved ones feel, and work in innumerable other ways to aid chronic disease management. Some of the ways technology is streamlining chronic disease management today include:
- Boosting Patient Engagement on Varied Levels of the Care Delivery Process
Through remote management technologies such as telemedicine that furnish robust patient support both inside and out of the physician’s office, providers can boost overall patient engagement and avert the occurrence of severe complications, which may ultimately help them meet clinical quality benchmarks and reduce healthcare spending. Since chronic disease management and patient engagement are both congenitally patient-focused, it is a given that healthcare providers employ both strategies in conjunction. Only when patients are completely engaged in their own health and wellbeing, will they follow treatment plans better, ask their providers questions and track their health. Such behaviors will then help providers prevent their condition from deteriorating further.
- Providing Physicians with Detailed Insights to Make Intelligent Decisions
Technological innovations such as mHealth apps and wearables are a cost-efficient and time-saving way of extracting personalized and holistic fitness insights from patients. By connecting to IoT devices, digital health platforms can derive critical disease information and use it to garner patient response, thus strengthening the overall treatment process. Since provider burnout is on the rise in the US, such detailed insights can act as an antidote and mitigate its harmful effects on physicians across specialties. Also, these insights help assess the requirements, needs, and concerns of all patients on a real-time basis. They can also speed up the process of predictive and preventive analysis, thereby detecting trends, revealing patterns, making a quick diagnosis, and capturing early symptoms. In the long run, this keeps all types of chronic ailments under control.
- Helping with Better Evaluation of Patient Conditions
Present-day digital health technology solutions can seamlessly integrate with various IoT (Internet of Things) devices. From glucometers to fitness trackers, implantable wristbands, heart rate monitors to pulse-tracing watches, modern healthcare technology solutions can link a variety of wearable equipment with a single platform. Doing this not only helps patients continually keep a tab on their biological, physical, and behavioral parameters but it also makes it possible for their care providers to analyze dietary patterns, energy levels, cognitive performances, and biometric indicators, as part of routine checkups. This, in turn, helps with better evaluation and easy management of symptoms that may be related to different chronic ailments. Additionally, since healthcare data is extremely vulnerable to cyber thefts, cloud hosting the patient data can furnish a supplemental layer of security and make it more interoperable across channels.
Which Tech Innovations can Healthcare Providers Leverage to Remotely Manage Patients with Chronic Conditions?
Today, the healthcare market is abuzz with gadgets and technologies that can help physicians across specialties to provide aid to their patients suffering from chronic diseases. However, some of the most commonly leveraged technological innovations on this front would be:
- Wearable Devices
One recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research suggests that the upcoming step in chronic disease management could be based on blending together wearable devices and mHealth apps to improve health conditions. One of the core strengths of wearable technology is its potential to congregate and monitor real-time biometric data like blood pressure, blood oxygenation, heart rate, physical activity level, and sleep among other vital health metrics. For example, as a patient walks into a physician’s clinic or hospital, the physician takes notice of his/her gait. The remote technological solution analogous of this can be a gait recognition sensor using mobile accelerometers. Likewise, sensors for measuring temperature, blood pressure, pulse oximeters, glucometers, and respiratory rate sensors, all integrated with mobile applications, can be used in the remote management of chronic conditions. Today, a number of healthcare facilities offer remote monitoring devices or kits, depending upon a patient’s specific need. Also, integrating wearable data from devices into patients’ electronic medical records (EMR) can help physicians maintain data continuity with the initial in-person visit recorded in the EMR.
- mHealth Apps
Next up, mobile health apps, commonly known as mHealth apps, have gone down to become one of the most effective technological solutions for managing chronic conditions in the healthcare market today. As discussed in the previous point, wearables and mHealth apps often work side-by-side to produce essential health metrics that are necessary for tracking the patient’s overall condition. What’s more? mHealth apps are also an excellent means of boosting patient-provider communication and increasing access to anytime care. The majority of these apps have integrated chat features that let patients get in touch with their physicians virtually at any given place and point in time. This greatly ameliorates outcomes. mHealth apps also include other important features such as push notifications. This can be useful in reminding patients about their medications or scheduled appointments.
Telemedicine, when used in conjunction with remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology, can reduce the cost of managing chronic diseases by manifolds. Physicians can make use of mobile devices, live video and audio features, and other smart digital tools to monitor a patient’s well being even from a distance, lowering the need for face-to-face consultations in less serious cases.With close to 57 million Americans currently residing in rural areas, many patients across the country have to travel miles just to be able to access basic care facilities. They may have to travel great distances to see a specialist or even their care provider, who usually tend to be in short supply in these areas. Patients with chronic conditions especially for the most part depend on specialized care when trying to get their symptoms under control, making it that much harder for them to see their care provider on a regular basis. However, with telemedicine, patients requiring care for their chronic conditions can easily keep in touch with their care providers, including specialists, that too from the comfort of their own home.
Modern healthcare technology innovations ensure better delivery of curative, preventive and rehabilitative health services to patients grappling with the harmful effects of chronic diseases, irrespective of their geographical location. Such remote management has become of growing importance in today’s times.
With these innovations, patients don’t have to worry constantly about managing their medication schedules, sifting through their medical records, or initiating one-on-one communication with their care providers. As a result, a wide range of medical emergencies can be completely averted right in their initial stages, and the overall quality of population health can be ameliorated.
By Dr. Leo P. Langlois, advisor to Arkenea, Inc.
Dr. Langlois is a physiatrist in Bakersfield, California and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and Mercy Hospitals of Bakersfield. He received his medical degree from Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, completed residency training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and received fellowship training at University of California Davis. Dr. Langlois has over 28 years of experience treating chronic disabling conditions and chronic intractable pain.
Arkenea is a full-service, healthcare software development company that helps fast growing healthcare organizations, whether Fortune 500 or startups, accelerate product time to market with custom healthcare and medical software development and UI/UX design.To learn more, visit arkenea.com or contact (408) 320-6361.