Chronic disease is a world-wide health crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases, kill more than 38 million people each year worldwide. In the U.S., more than half of all adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Australia has a similar chronic disease burden, with about half of all adults having a chronic disease, and 1 in 5 affected by at least two.
What these stark statistics mean is that chronic disease is not a diminishing area of medical and health management. Actually it is more and more complex as our population ages; multiple conditions of chronic disease in an individual is increasingly a focus for healthcare providers. This illuminates a vital need for effective tools to aid in managing these diseases; patient engagement is required for long term improvements. Patient portal software is just such a tool, offering numerous benefits for both patients and their provider team. The new healthcare is a happy convergence of shared 'goal setting' ; the team of patient and provider working shoulder to shoulder for more efficiency and effectiveness in their health management approach: patient access to their results over time, breaking down the jargon for their empowerment, true engagement with shared decision making and tailored education for their ease of understanding.
How Patient Portals Can Help
Patient portals, especially when the patient portal is directly integrated with an EHR as part of a single-platform, offers real time exchange of information. There are a number of features that can help to improve chronic disease management, such as:
- Personalized, online health education – Clients can access their own records, other reliable information and education resources uploaded for them personally. As this is all specific to their particular health circumstances, they are empowered to become more knowledgeable about their own conditions. These features also help them gain an understanding of the beneficial impact that better self-management and self-care will offer them. They can start easily on their own; feeling encouraged and heard.This all adds to self- responsibility and confidence that they can impact their day-to-day quality of life, as well as long-term health outcomes.
- Self-management tools – These typically include online appointment management, online prescription renewal, medical compliance notes, reminders and alert features as to 'notable dates' and upcoming appointments, necessary preventive care screenings, self-care assessments, self-management tasks and tools to coordinate, track and evaluate their own self-management efforts.
- Communication tools – These include secure messaging features that allow direct communication between clients and clinician team and allied health support staff; online classes with consults via telehealth as available options.
These and other features of a fully-integrated patient portal software can improve chronic disease management and support better long term outcomes for the individual in their own environment. For example, a 2011 study, “Patient Web Portals to Improve Diabetes Outcomes: A Systematic Review,” published in the journal Current Diabetes Reports, researchers found that patient portals improve disease management and patient outcomes in diabetes. A 2015 study, “The Effect of Patient Portals on Quality Outcomes and Its Implications to Meaningful Use: A Systematic Review,” published in the “Journal of Medical Internet Research” found that use of patient portals improved medication adherence, lowered appointment no-show rates, and increased patient retention, improving chronic disease management.
By empowering, educating and engaging patients in their own healthcare journey, patient portal 'acceptance and use' can yield significant improvements in self-management motivation and skill levels, while portal-provided self-management tools add organization and convenience. By increasing communication and information flow, portals aid in building more productive relationships between providers and clients- this model of care delivery will be measured in the outcomes improvements rather than just fewer office visits. These are essential factors in effective chronic disease management, making patient portal software an invaluable tool in optimizing the care and support of chronic disease sufferers.