How Technology Uplifts Chronic Self-Care

For better or worse, self-care takes tremendous place in healthcare, since it’s practically impossible to watch over all patients’ health 24/7. Thus, there are high hopes on patient engagement, discipline and responsibility.

Practically, initiatives focused on self-care quality improvement lie in the area of chronic disease management. It’s no surprise, since chronic patients indeed have to do their best in order to maintain the current health level as high as possible, improve it, keep up with the treatment plan and stay active.

Traditional Patient Education on Chronic Self-Care

The Stanford University is one of the major contributors to creation of multiple self-care programs for patients with chronic diseases, which are held in the form of workshops given once or twice a week for a month or so. During the session, individuals learn how to:

  • Deal with stress, frustration, fatigue and pain
  • Exercise appropriately for their condition
  • Stick to the treatment plan and use medications properly
  • Eat healthy
  • Effectively communicate with family and health specialists and more

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Additionally, patients can make new friends and find support from the ones with similar problems, which is even more motivating.

Chronic Self-Care & Technology

However, when the session is over and the external source of motivation disappears, a chronic patient is facing the disease alone again. This can be challenging for most individuals. They might be uncertain about whether they are doing well with self-care left entirely to them.

Depression can hunt them down at this point, which significantly lowers their desire and ability to take proper care of themselves. The risk to develop complications in this situation is rather high. According to the study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 20 percent out of 31,033 patients observed were diagnosed with depression following a COPD diagnosis. “Average monthly adherence to COPD maintenance medications was low, reaching only 57 percent in the month following the first fill, and decreasing to 25 percent within six months.”

Technology to Upgrade Chronic Self-Care

What is the core idea of the efficient self-care? It is systematic support, so that patients with a long-term condition would still know there is someone to help professionally. Meanwhile, they also need to learn interpreting their health status and being confident about their treatment plan.

To support patients all the time, not just in the course of self-care programs or support groups, we suggest turning to technologies.

Supported by our healthcare software development background, we’ve come to the solution which can both cover the patient’s self-care needs and provide their self-care program organizer with essential health data for wellbeing monitoring.

Recommended Functions of a Self-Care IT Solution

We came up with the technology-based chronic disease management model that can be adapted to self-care. To help patients cope with their condition daily, we suggest a mobile application with the following functionality:

  • Therapeutic Patient Education (multimedia content tailored to a patient’s condition with physical activity tips, meal choice guidelines, meditation sessions and more)
  • PGHD Collection (subjective and objective data, such as temperature, mood, sleep, nutrition, blood glucose, SpO2 level, heart rate and more)
  • Psychosocial support (Q&A chat, notifications on support group gatherings and more)
  • “Guidance” (set of notifications, recommendations and reminders covering all events and significant health changes, such as negative vitals trends, necessity to schedule an appointment, test and more)
  • Motivation (various patient engagement elements to keep chronic patients interested in using the app and taking control over their health, including achievements, badges, bonuses for uninterrupted app entries, social media sharing and other)

The software should also be backend-connected to provide patients with content, store PGHD, analyze trends and send notifications.

Why a Mobile App?

Unlike one-off support meetings and self-care programs, an application stays with a patient always and everywhere. Importantly, this healthcare software is not a “box of numbers” serving just to measure and input some data. Chronic patients need to see human-friendly outputs, such as trends, charts and messages about their progress.

It’s not a coincidence that we mention motivation functionality as a separate part of a mobile chronic self-care application. Providing and gathering information simply isn’t enough to keep a patient involved into their health management. As they learn to cope with their condition, a lot of clear explanations and rewards for doing well are a must.

Scientific Value of PGHD

Apart of being a chronic patient’s go-to tool to master their health management, automate and ease up some routine, a mobile application can also bring a significant value to self-care researchers and promoters. PGHD is the key to everything behind an individual’s disease struggle and progress as it can disclose previously unknown insights into each particular chronic disease.

Sequentially, analyzing this data may lead to better understanding of both negative and positive processes in the human body in correlation with a specific treatment plan, allowing for a reduction in complications, recognition of disturbing symptoms earlier and improvement of the overall population health.

What Else to Consider

Complementary to patient-facing elements, a mobile application can also contain the following legal-specific features:

  • The patient’s consent form to share data with their self-care program organizer
  • The patient’s consent form to use shared health data for analytics, statistics and scientific study on a particular disease
  • Logo and / or other legal profs of this application having been issued by an authorized self-care program organizer
  • Disclaimers to notify patient that the responsibility for misusing an application is on a patient’s side, as a solution can’t fully substitute a physician

Merging Traditions with Technology

Patients need two different things at the same time.

First, they should know how to monitor their condition by themselves and grow control into a habit. Second, individuals also need to feel supported and taken care of daily.

Thus, we suggest combining traditional self-care programs with mobile applications to embrace all patients’ needs altogether.

If you have any questions on how to enable self-care via apps, please don’t hesitate to address them in comments.

Alena Nikuliak is a business analyst at ScienceSoft.

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