Patient Directed Care—The New Normal

Oct 13, 2017 posted by Justin Bikram under Digital Transformation

Patient Directed Care

Web and mobile-based tools are helping educate and enable patients to make informed/shared decisions about their healthcare.

Here’s a thought…the Internet has been around for 26 years, but it is in the last 10 years, that more than half of the world’s population has gained access to the internet via a smartphone. The use of smartphones has been most influential in shaping consumers behaviour.

It is common knowledge that due to technology advances, the roles and responsibilities of doctors, nurses (and insurers) are rapidly evolving. But what if this technology could enable the most important person in the healthcare equation? The Patient!

Patients Concern:

  • Lack of information
  • Unnecessary visits to hospitals
  • Long waiting; brief consultations
  • Lack of follow-up consultations

Doctors’ Concern:

  • Limited data on patient condition (historical and progressive)
  • Quick decisions

Insurers’ Concern:

  • Lack of quality data to identify health patterns (for better underwriting and products)

The old normal…

When we are unwell, most of us typically visit our local G.P. This experience can involve delays and long waiting times in a crowded waiting area, to be followed by an often short consultation, during which, we have to quickly articulate our concern/condition to the doctor. The doctor has even less time to grasp the case history, analyse the situation, and make a decision to prescribe medicine or recommend further diagnostics tests and/or referrals etc.

This sound familiar of course. In truth, more often than not, we, the patients, do not feel that we have established all the facts and details with the G.P. and sometimes the G.P. has not got all the time they need to make the best decision.

Healthcare providers need to know more about the patients and their condition in advance to provide a better service and make them feel more engaged. Any solution must be a win-win situation for Patient and Healthcare Services alike.

So, what do you think is the answer?  Patient Directed Care (PDC).

PDC is a significant deviation from the traditional doctor-driven and hospital-regulated healthcare model. PDC takes a holistic and empowering approach wherein healthcare service providers enable their patients to start using technology tools (Apps and IoT) to monitor and report their condition, collect and record vital statistics, and send this data to the cloud for analysis.

PDC is all about educating and engaging the patient by using smart technology to monitor and diagnose early and act decisively.

Here are some of the key benefits that the patient receives from a PDC model:

  • The patient takes proactive interest in their healthcare and well-being
  • Patient adopts web/mobile tools; periodically monitoring their health metrics
  • Patient is enabled with resources, information, and tools
  • Patient has access to remote consultation (second opinion)
  • Patient and the doctor make a shared-decision in formulating the course of action 

Of course not! Does this mean that patients will take over the reins of their personal healthcare?

Not all health conditions qualify for PDC. The emergency and complex conditions will continue to be physician directed. Doctors will continue to guide the trauma and surgical emergencies.

Role of Digital Tools in PDC

Patients:

  • Data logging
  • Data visualization
  • Generate health score
  • Health reminders
  • Customized suggestions (nutrition, exercise etc)
  • Tele-consultation

Doctors/Hospitals:

  • Resource optimization
  • Early/Accurate diagnostics
  • Patient history captures
  • Remote follow-up/monitoring 

An involved and satisfied patient!

Proactive involvement makes individuals more concerned about their health. After all, prevention is better than cure, and awareness is a precursor to prevention.

Healthcare services that adopt a PDC model enable their patients to:

  • Continuously monitor their health
  • Reduce need to visit the doctor/hospital
  • Use a personal medical docket/assistant
  • Access to timely and accurate information about health conditions and remedies
  • Data-driven suggestions

In the coming decade, PDC enabling technologies such as mHealth need to be adopted as a standard and promoted by reputed healthcare providers to their staff and patients. It will build additional trust, loyalty, and higher adoption rates. mHealth approach will transform the health of a nation and this cultural shift has already started.

Can healthcare services do more with less?

Yes they can, because PDC will improve the way health services are delivered to the patient

For example:

  • Data from PDC tools will lend insights into the case history
  • Prioritise and optimise time and resources
  • Doctors can make more informed decisions
  • The resources available can be used for more genuine cases (assuming that PDC will reduce the number of walk-ins)
  • Shared-responsibility for making decisions
  • Reduced wastage of time = attend to more patients!

PDC, over a period of time, will accumulate significant data about a person’s health. This can be used for early detection and maybe even pre-empt some medical conditions. Successful PDC initiatives across communities can lend valuable data and patterns regarding the prevalence of communicable diseases.

However, let us all acknowledge that every big change comes with its challenges. Most of the challenges are demographic and cultural. Therefore, they are also temporary. Some of the other concerns include language barriers, the familiarity of web/mobile technology, and liability in cases of shared decision-making. In spite of these challenges, the full potential of PDC can be realised only if the individual patients, healthcare providers, and policy-makers work together.

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No one can stop an idea, whose time has come. In the not too distant future, technology natives (Millennials, Gen Y & Z), will eventually outnumber technology adopters (Baby Boomers and Gen X), as the predominant services users.

Will we be ready?

Well, at least now we know what we have to do and that the technology already exists!

Kellton Tech has already rolled out the largest PDC/mHealth project of its kind by serving more than 12 million people in India.

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