Regardless of the situation, healthcare will always be a necessity.  During trying times, like the COVID-19 pandemic that spread rapidly across the world, that demand becomes even more pronounced. Not only do patients need their normal, routine care, but a major influx of new patients increases the strain on the healthcare system.

While many hospitals, emergency responders, and other healthcare providers have tried to overcome obstacles by using some of the latest connected health technologies, the crisis points to a deficiency in the system’s ability to support all patients.

Some procedures and routine visits can certainly be delayed, and overall, 29% of adults have postponed care during the pandemic. But a bigger challenge arises with patients whose conditions don’t afford them the luxury of putting off care, like the 60% of American adults who suffer from at least one chronic disease (40% have multiple conditions). In many cases, active monitoring and engagement is needed to prevent regression that could lead to hospitalization – or worse.

The current health crisis has created difficulties for many of these patients, who have not had access to the care they need – one survey found that 57% of chronic disease patients have put off care during the pandemic. Adding to the challenge is the fact that 52% have not received appropriate guidance on how to manage their conditions during this situation.  Additional advice could help patients better manage their conditions while they are unable to see their doctors for care, whether they are suffering from heart conditions, diabetes, or other common conditions – or even patients experiencing anxiety as a result of the pandemic.

This is where the gap comes to light. In another survey, most patients (74%) say the pandemic has increased their desire to more effectively manage their health on their own, and two-thirds believe having access to virtual care options would enable them to do that effectively.

There are many elements of connected health that can help physicians enable better care for their patients – especially those who have expressed a desire to more effectively manage their conditions on their own.

Medication and Treatment Reminders

One of the challenges patients face is simply following their treatment programs, including taking medication, especially if they have multiple conditions that require different plans.  Yet, these treatment regimens are critical to their progress.  Automated reminders can be delivered in a variety of ways – voice calls, text messages, app-based notifications – and can help patients keep up with their programs.

Virtual Check-ins

Regularly scheduled or ad-hoc virtual visits – either video or voice only – can help physicians check on their patients without requiring in-person visits.  They can be used to answer questions, discuss any changes in conditions, make sure patients are following their treatment plans, or simply to see how they are feeling and to engage in ongoing dialogue to build positive relationships.  Regular engagement can help patients stay on track with their plans and reduce the need for more rigorous treatment when they fail to follow their prescribed programs.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Many patients require regular measurement and reporting of vital signs to monitor conditions and manage treatment.  Even under normal circumstances, this can be a burden on patients and providers – as well as other caregivers.  A variety of approved remote patient monitoring devices can be used to record and transmit these readings in home environments and send them directly to providers through patients’ EHRs. This can allow physicians to continue to monitor conditions – including setting alerts when patient-specific thresholds are breached – so they can take appropriate action, setting up additional virtual visits, adjusting treatments plans, or scheduling in-person visits, if necessary.  Even non-connected devices can be used by patients or caregivers to take readings manually and report them through patient portals or even by calling them into providers.  Automated voice systems could even be leveraged to make the process easier for patients and providers.

Information Exchange

Access to information can be a major factor in patients being more engaged in their own health, especially when the traditional care they are used to isn’t as accessible.  Physicians can use a number of different digital communications mediums to engage with patients and to provide them general information about their practices, or to give personalized detail about care programs.  Whether it’s through email, voice messages, virtual visits, patient portals, or mobile and web apps, providers can deliver important information to patients through whichever channels are most convenient or preferred by patients.

During current conditions, connected health solutions can provide much-needed continuity of care and maintain physician-patient engagement  But, they can also serve as a model for future care. As the use and acceptance of connected health tools grows, providers will be able to extend their care capabilities without necessarily increasing the burden they feel.

To learn more about how connected health can help enable better care and patient outcomes, visit us here.