People have more tools today than ever before to help them make informed decisions that can improve their health. That’s crucial, because six in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic disease, and 90% of the nation’s $3.8 trillion in annual healthcare costs are spent to manage chronic and behavioral health conditions. Excessive alcohol and tobacco use, poor nutrition, a lack of physical activity, and other behaviors put people at greater risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Thanks to clinical and public health research, the healthcare community has been able to determine the causes of many chronic conditions. While many people may feel overwhelmed by the process of managing these conditions, lifestyle changes can help improve certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and cardiovascular disease.
The good news is that innovations in digital healthcare, along with a supportive healthcare team, can help people manage their chronic conditions, and it can support them to be even more proactive in their healthcare by accessing these tools.
Lifestyle Changes and Chronic Condition Management
There’s a clear connection between behavioral health and physical health conditions. For years, when it came to treating chronic conditions, many people became reliant on the notion that one solution — such as medication — could help them feel better. Now, of course, we know that there’s a lot more to it – namely, multiple holistic solutions working together, such as medication, exercising, eating healthier, and other influences. For instance, 45% of adult deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes are associated with eating too much or too little of certain foods.
One way to support healthy lifestyle and behavior changes is through personalized nudges to care. These prompts — when delivered at the right time, in the right way, and tailored to each person’s circumstances — can help people make positive decisions for their health.
How Digital Health Technology Can Support Chronic Condition Management
Many people use their smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearable devices to track their daily steps, their heart rate, and how many calories they burn. Digital health monitoring devices can help with chronic condition management as well, empowering individuals to hold themselves accountable.
On the physician side, remote patient monitoring, electronic health records, and referral trackers help keep clinicians updated on an individual’s progress and allow for communication among health partners — all while maintaining security and privacy. Digital patient portals give individuals a way to keep track of upcoming appointments, medications, and health history.
Another innovation in healthcare is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which can analyze vast amounts of information quickly, delivering data-driven insights that can help clinicians and other members of a healthcare team create fast, personalized treatment plans — securely and while protecting each person’s privacy.
“AI helps us be able to look at an individual’s complete health history so we can make the most accurate predictions and provide the best recommendations for them,” said Ashok Chennuru, global chief data and insights officer, Carelon Digital Platforms. “AI allows us to get a comprehensive perspective, so we can make sure people are informed and supported to take the right steps in their chronic condition management.”
To this end, Elevance Health has created an app and platform designed to offer ease, flexibility, and support to those who are living with chronic conditions. People can use the app to help manage their conditions with on-the-go resources and digital access to their comprehensive care and case management teams, who are supporting and collaborating with them on every step of the way.
A program for Crohn’s disease, for example, launched in March 2021 and enrolled 94% of eligible people in a particular geographic community. Of the eligible people, 83% completed daily surveys and daily symptom tracking, 78% engaged in digital chat with their care managers, and 74% completed personalized missions and resources. The goal is that the program will not only lead to enhanced quality of life for people who have this disease, but that early, proactive intervention will lead to a decrease in emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Healthcare consumers need the information and tools to manage their chronic health conditions. Digital health technology and a proactive healthcare team can provide that support and help guide people as they make decisions that lead to healthier lives.