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Patients Seek More Support with Chronic Disease Management

Patients want to be more engaged in chronic disease management, but reports show they need better provider support to do so.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Ninety-one percent of patients say they need more help with chronic disease management, but their healthcare providers are not delivering all the services they would like, according to a recent survey conducted by Kelton on behalf of West Healthcare.

The survey, presented today at the HIMSS17 conference, asked 502 patients and 417 providers about their chronic disease management needs and strategies, and found a significant chasm between what providers think patients need and what patients actually want.

Patients are reporting difficulty with managing their chronic illnesses, with 59 percent stating that they could have better self-management, and 20 percent going so far as to say their self-management is poor.

According to Allison Hart, Chief Healthcare Market Research and Insights Strategist, poor patient self-management comes from a lack of health literacy.

“This gap stems from lack of knowledge on how to manage their conditions,” Hart told PatientEngagementHIT.com in briefing about the survey. “Thirty-nine percent of patients say that they’re only somewhat knowledgeable at best about how to effectively manage their chronic conditions.”

READ MORE: How Patient Engagement Supports Chronic Disease Management

Seventy-five percent of their providers agreed, stating that their patients are lacking the knowledge necessary for self-management.

However, patients said lacking provider support is driving their limited health knowledge. Seventy percent of patients said they need their providers to supply them with more educational resources teaching them how to manage their chronic diseases. Eighty-eight percent of patients said that additional educational resources would help them improve their overall health.

Lacking provider connectivity could be keeping patients from learning about their disease, patients said. Seventy-five percent of surveyed patients said they want their providers to check in regularly, with one in five even stating that they would like 24-hour access to clinicians. Yet only 30 percent of patients reported that their providers check in with the regularly between office visits, said Hart. Just five percent of providers say they regularly use surveys to assess patient progress with chronic disease management.

According to Hart, these shortcomings may be due to the perceived workload increase that comes with enhanced patient engagement efforts.

“A lot of times, very large organizations are dealing with a large population of patients. Patients also might have anywhere from one to three chronic conditions,” Hart explained. “It’s difficult sometimes to manage at the scale and at the same time give that personalized support.”

READ MORE: Chronic Disease Management Apps for Teens Need Stakeholder Input

However, technology can help mitigate some of those concerns by carrying out some of the patient engagement strategies patients say they want, she said.

“Technology can really be a help here because it wouldn’t require staffing up a team to manage a population of patients with diabetes. You can have those human touch-points, but the technology does the leg work.”

For example, healthcare organizations can deploy automated surveys to check whether patients are completing prescribed wellness activities or taking their medications. Healthcare organizations can use the telephone or email to issue these surveys, and receive alerts if a patient repeatedly neglects her care management strategies.

“The good thing is that the surveys allow the providers to monitor the patients in their home environments,” said Hart. “If they get an answer back from that survey that would raise a flag, they can then escalate that case and intervene before patients reach the point of needing acute care.”

When a provider receives an alert, she can craft a personalized intervention with the patient, taking into account the patient’s individual disease knowledge and care needs to help create a more suitable treatment plan.

READ MORE: Access to Care, Communication Aid Chronic Disease Patients

Likewise, mHealth and wearable technologies can help keep patients connected. Just like with an automated survey, these tools can alert providers if there are irregular issues and prompt them to intervene.

“Patients want these things that connect them to the actual person who is managing their care, whether that’s a nurse, case manager, or a doctor,” Hart asserted. “Providers should leverage that technology to close that loop to keep patients more connected.”

According to the survey, patients are in favor of these technologies, with 50 percent of respondents stating that at-home monitoring systems could be beneficial for their health.

According to Hart, the bottom line is that patients want to be better connected to their providers to help manage their chronic illnesses, and health IT is one valid way to do that.

“Patients feel that automated check-ins are just as valuable as in-person check-ins with their providers,” Hart concluded.

“It’s not just about that time in front of the provider, or the face-to-face; it’s about the time when they’re not in front of the provider and they’re trying to get along with their daily lives and they need to have those reminders and those touch-points to be able to manage their own health.”

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