Six Strategies for Improving Chronic Disease Outcomes
No one gets out of here alive. We don’t say that to be grim — that’s just the medical reality. But we can delay the end. Chronic diseases need not be equivalent to death sentences. Conditions can be managed, monitored and made to be nuisance more than nemesis.
- Less than 50 percent of those suffering from the chronic disease have satisfactory levels of disease control.
- The majority of Americans don’t feel that the chronically ill get good care.
- 50 percent of patients with a chronic disease don’t take their prescribed medications regularly.
- 35 percent of patients with a chronic condition are not sure of what their key health metrics should be, i.e, blood pressure, cholesterol, or weight.
- 20 percent of patients rate their ability to manage their condition as fair or poor.
Using a blend of old-fashioned compassion and modern 21st century technology, there are paths that can be followed to improve outcomes for chronic diseases. We’ll get to some of the specific ways in which digital patient engagement platforms can help improve outcomes for chronic diseases, but one of the more intangible benefits of the technology is that it gives someone a “hand to hold” when they’re away from the walls of the physician’s practice or hospital.
A chronic disease can be a lonely battle. Doctors and nurses can be advocates, but once a patient leaves the clinic or hospital that advocacy often stops. But it doesn’t have to. There is technology available for even the least technologically adept so that patients feel like they have a partner with them on the journey.
Providing a patient with the equivalent of an electronic tether to hold on their journey isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for the hospital’s bottom line. Consider this report from the University of Chicago:
“Disease management can increase the quality of life for the patient, but hospitals and physicians are also key beneficiaries of a chronic disease management approach. From the physician’s perspective, it is advantageous to regularly interact with individuals at risk for developing complex symptoms. More closely understanding the patient’s condition helps providers to identify abnormalities before they progress to dangerous, complex, and ultimately untreatable levels.”
1. Disease & Health Education
“Know your enemy.” A disease is scary, but information is powerful. PatientBond, for example, sends patients educational content to support self-management of their health conditions as they go about their lives outside the doctor’s office.
However, information and education are not sufficient; if they were, why would Johns Hopkins find that more than half of physicians are overweight or obese? Why would UCLA find that a quarter of LPN’s smoke? The most health-educated people in the world still behave in a way that is counter to healthy living. No, education is part of the solution, not the solution.
Psychographic segmentation allows a healthcare provider or organization to understand the intrinsic motivations of patients and position education in a way that more effectively resonates with them. This is because psychographics pertain to people’s values, attitudes, beliefs and personalities and are core to their motivations and communication preferences.
Disease management and education served up with psychographic insights incorporated enhance the chances of patient understanding, acceptance and activation.
2. Disease Management Tracking
Track patient responses to communications and solicit feedback over the course of condition management with the help of a platform like PatientBond. Clinical staff follows up when patients indicate there are issues to address. This can help prevent problems before they crop up, and focus the clinical staff on patient follow-up where its needed most.
3. Appointment Follow-Ups
Patients can receive automated follow-ups with personalized appointment reminders and opportunities to connect with clinical staff when necessary with PatientBond, which uses a proprietary psychographic segmentation model to customize communications based on patients’ unique motivations and preferences. Just knowing someone is there can provide comfort to patients.
4. Medication Adherence
PatientBond reminds patients to take their medications appropriately and queries patient behavior (or lack thereof) with short surveys and response mechanisms for a two-way dialogue.
5. Psychological Care
Chronic disease isn’t just a physical condition. The weight of carrying around a diagnosis like cancer or diabetes can be excruciating, even for the those with the best support systems in place. It’s easy to focus just on the chemo or the dialysis, but the whole patient needs to be present during the battle, and if a diagnosis tips them into a depressive state or anxious mode, the treatment is undermined. Getting the patient matched with the proper psychological care or support groups can be a wise investment in the patient and the hospital.
Chronic diseases and fun rarely go hand in hand, but someone who is battling diabetes, cancer, heart problems or other chronic conditions often then view their whole lives through the prism of their disease.
Hospitals should offer programs on their own or partner with other organizations to make sure the chronically infirmed aren’t chronically isolated. It could be something simple, like a picnic — anything to make people feel less isolated and humanize the healthcare system. West Virginia’s Wheeling Hospital, for instance, sponsors an annual cancer survivors picnic with food, games, and drawings for those recently diagnosed and those who have successfully battled the scourge.
Yes, there is an expense incurred, but nothing compared to the expense of battling continuous, chronic disease and hefty readmission fees for hospitals. A little scheduled fun is a pittance of a price, and along with personalized, patient-centric care, it’s just the right thing to do.