Six in 10 Americans live with a chronic condition, and 40% have two or more. Patients with multiple chronic conditions routinely use, on average, five medications to manage their symptoms. From a numbers perspective alone, managing a chronic condition is a juggling act. Home medical equipment (HME) providers can help by offering the right digital tools for better medication management.
Various Doctors, Various Meds
A patient who is managing a chronic condition is also often working with multiple physicians and a range of medications to treat conditions, including drug side effects in some cases. Understanding all of a patient’s medications helps create a broader view into their health and how they are being treated. But it can be quite taxing for patients to need to recall their exact medication, dosage and frequency, as well as any previous medications that may have been used in treating their chronic condition. In many instances, staying on top of the medications required to treat chronic conditions can be as complex as managing the condition itself.
For patients managing a chronic disease, taking and managing medication becomes part of their daily routine for the foreseeable future. Medication therapy becomes the new norm, as does managing side effects and contraindications. But remembering all the do’s and don’ts can be hard for even the most attentive patient.
Patient interactions in the physician’s office are typically brief, and the pharmacy experience may be even more so; it’s usually transactional in nature beyond the well-intended “Do you have any questions?” What’s left is a patient trying to navigate their life with the small amount of information given—and often with a whole host of questions that arise later. In many cases, what results is a guessing game of pills and self-medication and ineffective results
Digital Companions Present a New Option
As patients struggle to manage their chronic conditions, a better solution has emerged to help them regulate their drug therapy: the rise of digital companions. These devices use a smartphone application and digital platform to connect users with their own drug treatment guide. Users can input their medications into their personalized app and receive instructions, support and guidance on when and how to take their medication. This can include time of day, with or without food, what other medications it can or cannot be taken with and anticipated side effects.
Increasingly, patients are using apps, smartphone lists and digital companions to help manage their health. In this era of digital health advancements, companions aren’t just pill reminders; rathery, they are tools to drive engagement with patients to become their own advocates and improve medication adherence. These digital companions also create a digital log of medication history. When given access by a patient, providers can review medication patterns, track treatment progression and use the data as a reference against any issues a patient may indicate during follow-up visits.
Timely Guidance, Prompt Interventions
The latest advancements in digital companions work to connect users with individualized support that delivers guidance specific to each user. This could mean tutorials on how to administer medications, patient education materials on titration schedules, or even chat rooms that connect other patients using the same medication. Companies like Omada Health, Happify and Medisafe have the ability to connect users with friends, family and clinicians to provide support for treatment continuation. This level of personalization and incorporation of human support has proven to increase engagement and support drug adherence.
The Future of Condition Management
Digital health has made many enhancements to help patients manage chronic conditions, helping fill in the gaps where traditional medical settings leave uncertainty and questions. Through the thoughtful use of artificial intelligence, digital companions are becoming more personal and more comprehensive to assist patients throughout their journey. Since no two patients are alike, the guidance and information should resemble their uniqueness and individual lifestyles—and artificial intelligence is making that more of a reality.
With an aging population—and a growing number of younger Americans coping with chronic illness—the need for better support in managing chronic conditions is at an all-time high. Fortunately, seniors seem to be more engaged in their health and are embracing digital tools to stay connected. I believe we will
see an increased adoption of digital companions, with future iterations incorporating health and wellness elements to support healthy lifestyle choices to further enhance chronic condition management.
While the incidence of chronic conditions is unlikely to change, how the industry helps patients manage them presents an opportunity to rethink the patient journey. By embracing the innovations of digital health and understanding the complexities of living with a chronic condition, we can design a better experience that enables patients to feel empowered to live life according to their terms.