4 Benefits of Telemedicine in Chronic Disease Management

How Telemedicine Is Changing Chronic Disease Management for the Better

Chronic disease management continues to be a major concern for healthcare providers and their patients. A chronic disease is one that lasts three months or longer, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and chronic heart disease. Studies show that around 40% of the U.S. population suffers from a chronic disease – approximately 133 million Americans. That number is expected to rise to 157 million by the year 2020.

In fact, nearly half of all adults have a chronic disease and, almost a third of the population is living with more than one chronic condition. Just seven chronic diseases – cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and mental illness – have a total impact on the economy of $1.3 trillion annually.

As these trends continue, healthcare providers are looking for ways to lower the cost of chronic disease management without negatively impacting the quality of care. Telemedicine, including what’s known as remote patient monitoring, can reduce the cost of chronic disease management. Doctors and specialists can use live video and audio, mobile devices and other smart digital tools to manage a patient’s condition from a distance, reducing the need for in-person consultations. Learn more about the benefits of using telemedicine in chronic disease management.

Increase Access to Specialized Care

With around 57 million Americans currently living in a rural area, many patients across the country lack access to care facilities. They may have to drive long distances to see their primary care provider or a specialist, which tend to be in short supply in rural areas. Patients with a chronic condition tend to have more trouble traveling long distances to see a care provider. They may suffer from a lack of mobility or have trouble sitting still for long periods of time. Patients with chronic diseases also tend to rely on specialized care when treating their symptoms, which can be hard to find in certain parts of the country, making it that much harder for them to see their care provider on a regular basis.

But with telemedicine, patients can correspond with care providers, including specialists, from the comfort of their own home. This increases the patient’s access to specialized care, while reducing the cost of care by lowering or even eliminating travel expenses. Some patients will see their condition get worse if they fail to see their care provider on a regular basis, but telemedicine can make it easier for patients to get the care they need.

Monitor Patient Lifestyle Changes

In addition to medication and other forms of treatment, patients living with chronic conditions may have to change their lifestyle if they want their condition to improve. This may include changes in diet, quitting smoking, and getting more exercise. But when left to their own devices, some patients may have trouble following through on these kinds of treatment regimens, which means their condition will only worsen.

But when care providers can remotely monitor a patient’s condition, they will know whether the patient is following the treatment guidelines. If a patient has been overeating and not getting enough exercise, the doctor might have the patient step on a Bluetooth scale to see how their weight has changed. Doctors can use mobile devices and live video and audio to quickly remind patients to take their medication, eat healthy, or find ways to stay active, improving the patient’s chances of recovery.

Triage New Symptoms in Real-Time

Patients with chronic diseases may see a new symptom pop up from time to time. This may be a minor concern, a sign their condition is deteriorating, or the start of a new chronic condition. Some patients may decline to consult with their care provider about this new symptom until their health takes a turn for the worse, especially if they have to travel long distances for an in-person consultation.

But with telemedicine, patients can quickly consult with their care provider about the new symptom as it appears in real-time. The doctor will then either recommend a change in treatment or urge them to visit a local emergency room if the condition is serious. This ensures the patient will receive the care they need on a timely basis as opposed to ignoring the symptom all together.

Reduce Hospital Readmissions

Patients with chronic diseases account for 81% of all hospital admissions, which tend to be one of the most expensive aspects of care. But when doctors and specialists can remotely monitor a patient’s condition, they can help the patient manage their treatment regime, reducing their chances of being readmitted to the hospital. This reduces the cost of care for both patients and care providers. Doctors can use telemedicine to make sure patients are keeping up with certain lifestyle changes, answer questions about medication, and triage new symptoms quickly to reduce hospital readmission rates.

After implementing a telehealth program, UPMC Health Plan, which covers 3.4 million members in Pennsylvania, saw fewer congestive heart failure patients placed in observation units. Participating Medicare members were 71% less likely to need a stay in an observation unit than members not in the program.

Telemedicine can improve chronic disease management by keeping patients in touch with their care providers, reducing the chances of a lapse in treatment and hospital readmission rates. Without these digital tools, many patients will have trouble consulting with a care provider. Learn more about the benefits of using telemedicine in chronic disease management at InTouch Health.