Over the last 20 years, internet and smartphones have disrupted almost all aspects of living and lifestyle. The healthcare industry is no exception. The digitisation of health records and clinical guidelines combined with the affordability of health monitoring sensors/devices are redefining the roles of doctor, patient, and the hospital. The internet has unleashed the age of patient self-care.
Patient Directed Care (PDC) refers to (but not limited to) the many practices and technologies adopted by individuals/patients to monitor/manage aspects of their health and well-being. PDC practices and tools are often pursued in collaboration with formal medical institutions. The doctor-patient engagements in the future will no longer be active-passive but transparent and collaborative.
PDC tools are valuable assets. The web and mobile tools can help the doctors/hospitals in many ways. Here’s a brief compilation of popular applications and possibilities with web/mobile technologies.
Electronic Health Records—access/analysis
Visualisations of X-Ray, MRI reports etc.
ECG / Heart Rate / BMI
Customised Reminders / Suggestions
Wellness and Lifestyle
Exercise, fitness trackers
Nutrition and weight loss
Relaxation and meditation
Mental health and psychiatry
Forward-looking medical institutions are already leveraging PDC tools to improve quality of service and reduce cost/time of delivery. Healthcare providers stand much to gain.
- Do more with less: Support more patients with existing resources (people/equipment)
- Prioritise: Data sharing can help with efficient prioritisation and scheduling of patient-visits
- Visibility and planning: What resources are needed, when, and how much
- Time management: Efficient reallocation of time, thanks to better visibility and prioritisation
Popular Therapy Fields for PDC
Health Apps – Overview (iOS and Android)
Total apps available: 259,000
Number of publishers: 58,000
mHealth Apps (YoY Growth): 57% (in 2016)
Statistics sourced from ‘mHealth App Developer Economics 2016’
A Role-Makeover for Healthcare Providers
The mindset of Patient Directed Care and shared decision-making are fast becoming mainstream. There are many use-cases and success stories of PDC out there already.
In case of Type-1 diabetes, the patients are required to monitor their blood sugar level periodically and administer the insulin dosage (injection) accordingly. Over the years, the PDC has taken over the task that once required the patient and the paramedic to be in the same room.
In the new engagement model, patients are taught how to,
1- Use a glucose monitor to determine their blood sugar level
2- Safely administer insulin; get feedback
3- Log the daily/weekly glucose level into an app/diary for reference
4-Visit the doctor only in case of anomaly
This has helped the doctors/hospitals to support a large number of patients with the same level of resources available.
Hypertension: A study was conducted in 1997 to compare the efficacy of a patient-directed care strategy against the traditional office-based management. This study of two months focused on maintaining blood pressure control among patients with chronic hypertension. Some of the patients were asked to measure their blood pressure twice daily (recorded them) and make alterations in drug therapy when values exceeded specified limits. Others were required to visit the healthcare facility for periodic check-ups.
At the end of the study, a significant change in mean blood pressure was observed, favouring the effectiveness of patient-directed management. At the end of two months, the patients pursuing self-care strategy managed their condition better in comparison to those who chose office-based management.
Exciting Times Ahead!
Did you know? Mobile health applications are one of the fastest growing categories in the mobile app market. In 2016, the mHealth apps are estimated to have been downloaded 3.2 billion times—a clear indication of how the next-gen prefers to be engaged over matters of their health and well-being.
As patients increasingly become acquainted and comfortable with analysing their health data through digital tools, it presents an opportunity to the trusted medical institutions to engage them over their new-preferred mode of interaction. It’s time for the healthcare industry to future-proof their engagement models.
These opportunities, however exciting, do come with their fair share of challenges. In building an effective PDC framework, the healthcare provider must overcome the imminent technological, cultural, economic, geographical, and logistical challenges. The success is closely linked to how effectively the new framework blends the medical workflow with the user experience.
In our next blog, we will try elaborate on overcoming these challenges with some of the industry best practices. Stay tuned.