Q3 2018 Newsletter - Caring for Patients with Chronic Disease: Why Virtual Care Is A Must-Have

By AnnaMaria Turano, Vice President of Marketing, Synzi

A chronic disease, as defined by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, is a disease lasting three months or longer. Chronic diseases affect approximately 133 million Americans, representing more than 40% of the total population of this country. More and more people are living with not just one chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease or depression, but with two or more conditions. Almost a third of the population is now living with multiple chronic conditions.   

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, people with chronic conditions receive only 56% of recommended preventive health care services. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that chronic disease accounts for approximately 75 percent of the nation's aggregate health care spending and the related treatment is responsible for 96 cents per dollar for Medicare and 83 cents per dollar for Medicaid.

The healthcare system recognizes the challenge in treating affected patients efficiently and effectively. “It's still a struggle for the health system as a whole to help people manage these conditions,” said Christine Buttorff, an associate policy researcher at RAND and lead author of the study. “The issue is slowly starting to gain traction. But as the baby-boom generation ages into Medicare, it's going to become even more important.”

Advancing the care of chronic disease is critical.  Implementing virtual care is a must-have for healthcare organizations seeking to improve how they manage and engage these patients from a convenient, cost-effective, and compassionate standpoint.  

By enabling patient access to convenient virtual care,  chronic care patients will be more satisfied with the flexibility in how, when, and where they interact with their providers. Patients (and their personal caregivers such as friends and family members) will appreciate being able to conduct the follow-up appointment virtually, from their home or office. As a result, patients and caregivers will miss less appointments, spend less time and money driving to/from the appointment, and miss less work. Plus, patients will be able to have any adherence issues, such as medication reconciliation, addressed in real-time. 

With a virtual care communication platform, administrators can schedule patient-specific messaging which reminds patients of upcoming virtual appointments and also alerts patients to medication and diet/lifestyle requirements. By receiving ongoing messaging, patients with chronic conditions remain informed and engaged in their treatment regimen. Administrators can also use the platform’s reporting capabilities to stay on top of patients’ adherence to virtual appointment and medication reminders in order to minimize the risk of readmission. Based on patients’ lack of follow-up and/or poor adherence behaviors, administrators can identify those patients at risk for readmission (or in need or intervention) and quickly reach out with a more urgent request for the patient to immediately follow-up with his/her care team.

Healthcare organizations can actively reduce the recurring cycle of readmissions for patients with chronic diseases by enabling the exchange of essential information — such as medication reconciliation, appointment reminders, and admission decisions — and by connecting providers and chronic care patients in a more efficient and effective manner. The overall care team (which may include several providers as well as a pharmacist) can better monitor patient in real-time and collaborate to resolve emerging patient issues throughout the care continuum. Convenient, video-based conversations (along with email, text messaging, and SMS reminders and alerts) can help all involved manage and engage the patient. As the number of Americans with chronic diseases is estimated to increase from 133 million Americans to 157 million by 2020, a virtual care communication platform is mission-critical for healthcare organizations to incorporate in their care delivery models.