Chronic disease can be regarded as a major and persistent epidemic of our time.
Today, roughly 40 million people in the United States are restricted in their day-to-day activities due to one or more common chronic health conditions. The most widespread chronic diseases are closely correlated to health risk behaviors.
According to one recent analysis from the Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation (CHART) at the New Jersey Hospital Association, numerous social determinants of health (SDOH) – or factors that affect a patient’s ability to be healthy – get in the way of effective patient care access. This further leads to an upsurge in emergency department (ED) visits.
However, this is slowly changing as a result of recent technological advancements that enable care providers and health systems to continually track disease metrics in near real time.
Therefore, chronic disease management definitely plays a part in mitigating avoidable ED visits. But how exactly? Read on to find out.
1) Chronic Disease Management Technologies Improve Patients’ Access to Anytime Care
Today’s patients are highly tech-savvy. They await swift response delivery from their health systems. In place of the same, age-old forms of care delivery, they expect their care providers to leverage technology to reduce treatment delays and enhance overall outcomes.
The rapid innovation happening on the chronic disease management tech front is making all of this and much more possible. Even patient populations whose health is strained by social determinants of health often have a cell phone to increase their access to technology-based health interactions.
One recent article by Arkenea explains how, with the advent of chronic disease management technologies such as telemedicine, distance is no longer a factor when it comes to availing healthcare services.
“Telemedicine has made it possible for people even in remote areas to get the care they need through virtual consultations. It is also making healthcare accessible for patients who can’t make a trip to the hospital.”
Telemedicine is only one solution under the wide umbrella of chronic disease management that has made it possible for patients residing in the remotest areas of America to get the care they need through virtual consultations.
With the help of technologies such as mobile-friendly telemedicine and dedicated mhealth apps, providers can easily schedule follow-up appointments virtually for chronically ill patients. This saves patients from commuting back and forth to the healthcare facility and helps them receive the best care from the comfort of their own homes.
2) Chronic Disease Management Keeps Patients More Engaged in Their Own Health
Patient engagement is one of the best tools in a provider’s arsenal when it comes to managing chronic diseases alongside their patients. Making sure patients have enough knowledge about, and are following their care plans, is crucial when addressing a chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease or even cancer.
Only when patients are fully engaged in their own health will they be more likely to track their progress, adhere to treatment plans, and ask their providers what they can do to keep their condition in check. These behaviors will be highly instrumental in preventing their condition from deteriorating further and avoiding more invasive or costly interventions.
Through chronic disease management solutions such as remote patient monitoring (RPM) that furnish robust patient support both inside and out of the healthcare facility, providers can boost patient engagement and prevent severe complications from occurring.
Similarly, wearable devices that form another important component of chronic disease management and work in sync with RPM can easily be used by patients to track their vitals, observe changing patterns, and seek advice from a doctor by sharing that information during remote consultations or even during an in-person visit.
Providertech participated in a study with an FQHC partner that included diabetic patients that were provided bluetooth enabled glucometers to track their blood glucose levels. Care managers were able to communicate via secure two-way text with patients, offering guidance from the provider for those struggling to control their glucose levels and encouragement for those patients who stay in acceptable ranges of blood glucose levels. The feedback from participants from both patients and providers was great. Patients appreciated the easier communication, and providers noted how helpful it was to have a complete data set.
Since chronic disease management and patient engagement are both inherently patient-focused, it is important for healthcare providers to employ both strategies simultaneously. This combination optimizes outcomes among chronically ill patients and, when performed effectively, will help keep them from unnecessarily seeking care from the emergency department.
3) Chronic Disease Management Systems Provide Physicians with Detailed Insights
Present-day chronic disease management systems can seamlessly integrate with other systems and devices to provide physicians with the insights they need to make intelligent patient care decisions.
One excellent example of this would be the more effective use of the Internet Of Things (IoT), sometimes referred to in this context as the Internet Of Medical Things (IoMT). From fitness trackers to glucometers, heart rate monitors, implantable wristbands, oximetry rings, and pulse-tracing watches, this state-of-the-art tech solution can link multiple equipment within a single platform to furnish robust healthcare data.
When used in conjunction with mHealth apps, the data from these systems can act as a time-saving and cost-efficient technique of extracting holistic insights from patients. For example, by utilizing two-way texting to send personalized messages to chronic disease populations, providers can better identify and manage those high-risk patients through virtual triage and remote monitoring. This technology also has the capability to empower chronic disease patients to manage their care at home while enabling providers to minimize ED visits, achieve value-based targets, and, most importantly, keep more patients healthy.
Furthermore, this makes it possible for physicians to analyze important metrics such as energy levels, dietary patterns, biometric indicators, and cognitive performances, as part of routine examinations. This, in turn, synergizes improved ease of monitoring with more effective management and better evaluation of symptoms related to different chronic diseases.
Also, these insights help assess the needs, requirements, and concerns of patients on a one-to-one basis. This can accelerate the process of preventive/predictive analysis, thereby revealing patterns, detecting trends, capturing early symptoms, and making swift diagnoses.
Chronic disease management systems can help physicians come up with ways to meaningfully reach and engage patient populations. In the long run, this will be highly instrumental in keeping many types of chronic illnesses under control.
It is clear that lessening the strain on the emergency department is dependent on making chronic disease management models more accessible, easy to use, and widespread among patient populations, especially the ones that reside in remote areas where resources are scarce.
Combining chronic disease population needs with a strategy to operationalize population health needs is essential both to meet patients where they are and drive better care management of chronic disease states.
About the author: Dr. Leo Langlois is an extensively experienced board-certified physician and surgeon. He graduated from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, completed his residency training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and fellowship trained at UC Davis Medical Center. In addition to his more than 27 years of experience treating chronic disabling conditions and intractable pain, he has run a successful practice since 2003 in Bakersfield, California.