Transitioning from Illness Management to Wellness Management: How can Health Care Make Itself an Active Partner in Consumers’ Lifestyle Transformation?
One in every three American adults suffers from high blood pressure today. I am one of them. Measuring my key health parameters, tracking them, and consulting my doctor regularly has now become a way of life for me.
I wonder, though, if the U.S. healthcare ecosystem – including the providers, payers, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology companies – is doing enough to improve the condition of millions of patients like me who suffer from chronic diseases. Why should I continue to be a “passive” receiver of care, as my caregivers deem fit, thereby perpetuating the conventional narrative of healthcare being an episodic, reactive exercise? Why can’t I, instead, have a larger, active role in the manner my blood pressure treatment regimen is designed and enforced?
I am not alone in asking these questions of hospitals, insurers, drug manufacturers, and other key stakeholders in the health care sector. Millions of patients suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, heart ailments, and asthma today increasingly demand a better quality of life, which depends not only on medicines but also on wellness management.
As this demand for personalized care, intuitive self-service, and on-demand order fulfillment keeps rising, I feel the time has come for all the concerned stakeholders to embrace patient centricity and engagement. Be it providers, payers or pharma, they now need to play the role of enablers. They should help individuals design and manage their care lifecycles by informing and empowering the latter to improve illness management, avoid complications, and prolong life through the adoption of a healthy diet and exercise programs.
How technology can help
So, how can the health care industry orchestrate this transition from illness management to wellness management? The key to answering that question lies in the old adage, “you cannot manage what you can't measure.” Collecting relevant, real-time data pertaining to each patient, monitoring, and analyzing the same to generate tangible insights, and recommending and implementing a customized wellness roadmap that can help the health care industry deliver real value.
The good news is that a whole host of enabling technologies are now increasingly becoming commercialized. Sensor-based wearables that facilitate on-the-go, remote measurement and tracking of biomedical stats are now being widely adopted. So, for a diabetes patient, the physician could use a Bluetooth-equipped wearable device to monitor blood glucose, blood pressure, and other parameters. Also, electronic medical records (EMRs) are being provisioned online, thus helping patients and caregivers get on-demand access to blood tests and medical reports. In conjunction, a growing number of use cases relating to the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, artificial intelligence and machine learning are emerging.
What different stakeholders can do
If technology is ready to help, how can the health care industry capitalize on it effectively? Well, I believe each actor needs to play their part here. Pharma, which is staring at a “patent cliff” amid large-scale mainstreaming of generic drugs, needs to go beyond producing drugs and provide different value-added services that create customer brand loyalty.
Building digital tools could be one way forward, GlaxoSmithKline’s HealthCoach4Me program being a case in point. The website is a healthy combination of interactive online health parameters guidance tools and educational resources that help consumers achieve health and wellness goals. The portal delivers primers for managing chronic conditions, and also contains personal health improvement modules concerning exercise, nutrition, weight control, and stress management.
Pharma and HCPs should also harness different wearables and digital apps that monitor various health parameters and combine these data points with data on nutrition, exercise. Gaining access to this 360-degree patient profile, behavior, and wellness graph could enable drugmakers and caregivers to reimagine processes and customize treatment plans more effectively. Also, the industry could use individual patient data to deliver on-demand recommendations with regard to condition and lifestyle management. The data deluge that the adoption of wearables will bring in demand rapid adoption of data analytics tools to provide meaningful health-related insights.
From providers’ and payers’ point of view, they should collaborate to develop digital platforms that can capture the growing volume of structured and unstructured patient data, and analyze the same to unearth real-time insights. Since data interoperability across healthcare IT systems remains a major pain point, the industry needs to come together to integrate EMRs, patient portals, and communication systems, including real-time location system (RTLS). Doing so can help improve the productivity of workflows involving clinicians. For example, doctors can use EHR-based data exchange to dynamically personalize informative content via visual reminders and instructions. Similarly, providers could document educational videos viewed, patient progress, and interventions completed back into EHRs, thereby monitoring patient status and calibrating the plan of care accordingly.
Delivering personalized care and fostering wellness management is a long-term program that requires the health care industry to embrace various consumer-facing, digital technologies. Doing so can help various stakeholders improve patient communication, education, and self-care, resulting in truly customized treatment adherence and lifestyle improvement.