Patient education, engagement, and convenience are critical pieces of the health care puzzle for this population

Reducing the burdens of chronic disease is one of the biggest challenges facing the health care industry today. More than half of Americans are currently living with at least one chronic disease—such as diabetes, heart disease, or asthma—while nearly a third of patients are managing two or more of these conditions, according to a report by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD). Chronic diseases are the number one cause of death and disability in America, and take a huge toll on the quality of life of patients and their family members.

More than half of Americans are currently living with at least one chronic disease while nearly a third are managing two or more of these conditions.

The financial burden is enormous as well. According to PFCD, “Eighty-six cents of every dollar spent on health care goes to treating people with a chronic condition. For each additional chronic condition a person has, his or her medical costs increase by more than $2,000 a year on average.” The report states, “We cannot lower health care costs without addressing the epidemic of chronic disease.”

The key to successful chronic disease management, say experts, is ensuring that patients are educated and engaged in their care. Let’s take a look at three effective strategies and tools to use with your patients.

1. Targeted patient education.

Given the importance of patient education in chronic disease management, many providers have made it a key component of their strategy. For example, Centura Health in Colorado utilizes patient education technology geared toward empowering patients to reach health care goals and get the best outcomes, Matthew Vitaska, administrator of Outcomes Effectiveness and Patient Experience, told PatientEngagementHIT.com.

Centura uses the Emmi Solutions tool, which can gather EHR data to identify at-risk patients managing chronic diseases. Then providers can send, say, all their diabetes patients educational modules via email to address proper preventive care. Rendia offers this feature as well by allowing providers to send educational videos via email or patient portal to help improve treatment adherence.

Doctors can also use this type of patient education technology at the point of care—to explain to patients the link between their diet and their disease, for instance—ultimately fostering better patient engagement.

“The goal of the modules is to be interactive,” Vitaska said. “Modules provide some didactic content but also have some videos in there and question and answer sessions to really engage the patient in their chronic condition to help drive optimal outcomes around that.”

For more on this topic, see the results of our new study: The Impact of Patient Education on Perception of Care

2. Online patient engagement tools.

It turns out patient portals play “a significant role” in increasing patient engagement in chronic disease management and preventative care, according to researchers from Kaiser Permanente of Southern California (KPSC).

Research shows patient portals play “a significant role” in increasing patient engagement in chronic disease management.

KPSC conducted a study to examine the effectiveness of their new Online Personal Action Plan (oPAP), an extension patient engagement tool to their patient portal. The tool is intended to help patients address any care gaps and disparities in preventive care.

“Even with the efforts of health care providers and staff, patients often need help accomplishing their efforts to maintain their health outside the medical office setting, and gaps in care are common,” explained lead researcher Shayna L. Henry, Ph.D., to PatientEngagementHIT.com.

The study examined care gap closure rates between oPAP users and non-users over roughly a year’s time. Users of the online tool received email alerts to notify them when there was a chronic disease management concern — for instance, that they were due for a mammogram or other preventive exam. The study found that oPAP users were nearly 10 percent more likely than non-users to receive cancer screenings and other preventive care tests.

3. Continued health coaching and follow-up care.

An important part of chronic disease management is ensuring that patients receive the proper follow-up care and health coaching. Yet getting patients back into the office for follow-up appointments can be a challenge, say providers. Health IT can help.

Ongoing in-person office visits are not convenient or cost-effective for many patients, and as a result, adherence to managing their health drops off. Some providers, such as Apollo Endosurgery, have discovered that offering patients a digital solution to follow-up care is more effective, according to PatientEngagementHIT.com.

Digital platforms and mobile health apps have proven to be convenient, cost-effective alternatives to in-person follow-up care, and also increase adherence to treatment plans.

“Apollo adopted Zillion’s digital platform that is part telemedicine device, part patient portal, to help patients and providers communicate remotely, completely digitizing the follow-up care and health coaching process,” reported PatientEngagementHIT.com. This convenience made patients more likely to engage in follow-up care.

Mobile health (mHealth) apps also have been proven to help with chronic disease management by reminding patients to take their medications or keeping them on track with other treatment protocol. The nonprofit patient support organization Caring Voice Coalition has published a list of five free apps for managing chronic illness, which include a medication management app and an app for navigating health care costs.

For more info on this, see mHealth for Small Practices: Which Tools Make the Cut?

It’s an exciting time in health care, with more and more doctors beginning to see the value in new tools and technology, and integrate them into their practices to reduce the costs of health care and improve outcomes for their patients.

To find out how we can help, get in touch with us today.