Chronic disease is a growing problem.  Already, 60% of Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, a number that increases to 80% in Americans over the age of 50.  In addition, the elderly population is increasing, driven by two key factors:  the Baby Boomer generation has reached retirement age and the average life expectancy for Americans is almost 9 years greater than in 1960. The rate of chronic disease and growing aging population logically suggests an increase in chronic disease.  Studies predict that, by 2030, there will be a 42% increase in the number of common chronic conditions.

Given this data, there’s little question the healthcare community has a challenge to overcome, especially when considering it is already suffering from a physician burnout epidemic and shortage of qualified medical professionals.  The opportunity lies in technology solutions – specifically, connected health.  New connected health solutions can help providers manage patients and their chronic conditions, develop more effective treatment plans, create preventative care models, and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

Clinical Decision Support (CDS) Systems

CDS systems help providers make decisions and improve patient care by automating much of the data sorting and analytics that goes into patient care.  Using defined data rules, these systems deliver relevant data and analyses to physicians to aid in decision-making, reducing the time required to sort through patient records and other data sources.  CDS systems can also be used to deliver reminders for treatments or preventative care, and even to alert physicians when patients have missed medications or have been prescribed incorrect dosages.  By automating much of the data-related process, physicians are able to focus more time on patient care and less on data entry, analysis and correlation.  Combined with artificial intelligence engines, CDS systems may be able to significantly improve the healthcare process for patients and providers.

Health Information Exchanges (HIE)

Health information exchanges are data repositories that facilitate sharing of information between healthcare organizations, enabling better patient care through the aggregation of larger groups of relevant patient data.  HIEs also allow sharing of patient information with specialists, hospitals, emergency personnel, and anyone else tasked with delivering medical care.  They also help answer patients’ demand for access to their own health records by giving all providers the ability to update records with the latest information – including manual or automated data entry.  Access their own data can help patients become more engaged in their own health.

Disease Registries

Registries for specific conditions can play a role in improving health outcomes by providing a resource where providers can compare patient treatments and results to identify and adopt best practices based in each patient’s characteristics.

Telehealth Applications

Telehealth applications allow physicians to connect with their patients across distances, allowing them to collaborate on disease management without requiring repeated clinic visits.  They enable increased communication between providers and patients to drive increased patient engagement, which can help drive positive results.

Remote Patient Monitoring

RPM devices allow repeated recording and reporting of patient data related to their chronic conditions.  By connecting directly to patient records, RPM devices provide regular data to providers and other caregivers without increasing their workloads.  In fact, with the ability to set up automated alerts based on individual patient thresholds and conditions, physician workload may be reduced, saving time per patient and allowing them to invest time in more patients (and less on manual reporting and data entry).  RPM can also play an important role in medication adherence, which is key to chronic disease management.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

When fully leveraged in connected health environments, EHRs provide a holistic view into a patient’s health, allowing physicians to consider all information when making care decisions.  In a connected health system, EHR enable automated data collection from telehealth interactions, RPM devices, and other applications.  EHRs are one of the key sources of data used by CDS systems, allowing for the creation of personalized treatment plans.

Maximum Caregiver Involvement

One of the keys increasing healthcare deliver efficiency is by including as many participants as possible – rather than relying exclusively on the primary physician.  Many of these connected health applications can encourage involvement of different members of the healthcare ecosystem, based on individual conditions and events.  Educators, nurses, assistants, specialists, family members, patients themselves, and of course primary physicians, can be part of the automated workflows built into connected health systems to manage chromic conditions more effectively.  By distributing care across different constituencies, the burden is lessened on any one person without reducing the quality of care – in fact, by involving more caregivers, patients may receive better care.

With chronic care on the rise, the need for more intelligent, patient-centric care options will become critical to not only managing the demand but relieving the burden on the healthcare system.  Connected health can help deliver better care to patients while providing the data need to identify preventative care options for value-based healthcare models.

To learn more about how connected health solutions can benefit patients, providers, and the rest of the healthcare ecosystem, connect with us here.

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