Posted on February 9, 2023
The coronavirus pandemic fueled the drive for digital health innovation. It necessitated the need for more devolved patient engagement solutions that open up care accessibility without jeopardizing the health and safety of clinicians and patients alike. While such digital engagement solutions existed long before the pandemic, the latter’s onset certainly ensured the fast-tracking of digital patient health monitoring solutions. So how does digital innovation lead to better patient engagement and thereby improve access to care? We’ll explore this in great detail today. Let’s get the ball rolling.
The traditional care model hasn’t always been ideal. Due to a more reactive approach to treatment, the conventional order of the day has been to seek treatment after you experience symptoms. But, sometimes, by the time symptoms surface, irreversible clinical damage may have already taken root.
Today, however, the onset of smart wearables such as our advanced and discrete biosensors are setting the pace for a new world order, particularly with regard to proactive treatment. Patients can take it upon themselves to take charge of their health with these intelligent wearables. With Cardiac Rhythm’s biosensor, for instance, the patient can trigger a diagnosis by pushing the button to record data during an event or symptom.
Such digital tools thereby open the doors for patient-initiated engagement, which improves care accessibility while also enabling:
1. Independent decision-making by patients
2. Simple wellness tracking
3. Better understating of one’s health concerns and needs
4. More informed lifestyle choices
Patients can take the first step to monitor their own health conditions, before liaising with their physician for a professional diagnosis.
Augmented Reality and its applications have long provided cannon fodder for science-fiction films. But today, AR is a reality that is already offering concrete value in many ways, namely:
1. Patient record management
2. Wound care management
4. Hospital navigation & much more
The examples of AR in action in healthcare are endless. But for our purpose, one particular application stands out i.e. AR-guided hospital navigation.
Large hospitals can have multiple levels, floors, offices, and rooms. This makes it hard for patients to get to where they’re going. Augmented Reality is stepping in to remedy this situation. Patients can rely on virtual route indicators via their phone cameras, guiding them to a predetermined location through the shortest path available.
Essentially, this triggers patient-self engagement, which is another excellent demonstration of how digital innovation equates to improving care accessibility.
Conventionally, hospitals and care facilities at large store information about patients within an EHR system, complemented by paper records. This approach to patient data management has however over the years distanced patients from their own health information.
Short of visiting their care provider or coordinating with physicians, patients are typically locked out of their own data. In the long run, this can lead to patient-provider disconnect, breeding consequences such as:
1. Poor treatment plan adherence
2. Resource wastage
3. Reduced care quality
4. Patient no shows
5. Patient defection, etc.
That has been completely turned on its head with patient care management platforms such as Cardiac Rhythm’s. Through an online platform, patients may also access personalized reports and data. As a result, they become greater stakeholders in their wellness and can even better set out their objectives and wants as far as health matters go.
Self-engagement and patient activation are concepts that go hand in hand. In more detail, patient activation entails equipping patients with the expertise, data, and capabilities to self-manage a condition or health overall.
Innovative digital solutions can aid to uplift care accessibility and engagement, first and foremost through omni channel communication features available at the patient’s will and discretion.
Here, care flows like two-way traffic, as opposed to trickling down in just one direction. What’s more, patients can even initiate patient-physician interactions regardless of whether they want more clarification on their condition or are simply keen to stay ahead of health issues.
In addition to ensuring more physician-patient opportunities for working together, virtual visits also take patient engagement and care accessibility up a notch in the following ways:
1. Taking out geographical limitations to meet patients where they are
2. Offering a holistic perspective of health, more so when partnered with an RPM program
3. Increasing ease of health literacy and much more
Such digital patient activation solutions mean engagement that cascades starting from the patient, and better accessibility regardless of distance constraints.
Accessibility issues and the gap between patients and quality care isn’t always down to geographical barriers. Other times, it traces back to a scarcity of expertise. In fact, research predicts there will be a physician shortage in the region of 100,000 within the next decade in the US. The statistics get far much worse when expanded to the global scene, with these personnel deficits predicted to run into the millions.
These gaps mean deprivation of healthcare services for some, creating an imbalance that threatens to destabilize the care system. Wearables could yet be the remedy once more. The technology allows for the devolution of care, easing the strain on physical resources while implementing a more patient-led approach to treatment.
Additionally, it also helps unearth unique personal factors that affect a patient’s condition, including dietary and lifestyle choices. In fact, with some smart devices, patients- in collaboration with larger care teams, of course- have the ability to choose what aspects of their lifestyle they want to track. In essence, these smart wearables are enabling the dispensation of care right from the frontline, with the patient getting better control over the monitoring process.
One of the best ways to improve care accessibility is through digital innovation that encourages patient engagement of their own volition. For a long time, it has been up to the physician to initiate and improve patient engagement. The shoe is now on the other foot with modern solutions that have enabled the reversal of these roles. Smart wearables, intelligent care management platforms, augmented reality, and many other technologies will continue to set this trend, and we’re bound to see the incorporation of many other newer technologies as science evolves.