According to the latest figures, more than 120 million Americans have one or more chronic illnesses.There are many ways to manage chronic conditions.Direct patient involvement is critical.In my book e-Patients Live Longer, reviewed recently by diabetesmine.org, I make clear that patients must engage with their health care providers and take charge by using the technology tools such as email, e-visits, smartphones and patient portals to communicate with doctors and nurses;they must access the Internet to find appropriate resources and social networks; they must use telemonitoring devices to track their vitals on a daily basis and send that data to their physician’s office for review.
Patient self management is a key component of effective chronic care and will result in improved outcomes if done properly. There are five steps in the process of patient self managements: collection of data, transmission of data, evaluation of the information, notification between the physician’s office and the patient and execution of the intervention recommended.The process depends on accurate, complete timely information, and on the ability of the patient to deal with the symptoms, treatment, physical and social consequences, and lifestyle changes that the condition requires of the individual.
Patient self management depends on a collaborative, cooperative agreement between the patient and the physician, and the deployment of a chronic disease management system (CDMS) which focuses on preventive care. The physician must support patient self management by providing the education that the patient needs to engage,and recommendations for the appropriate point of care devices such as weight scales, glucometers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, peak flow meters, thermometers, stethoscope. pedometers, blood pressure monitors and other wearable and peripheral tools now on the market. Many of these devices are reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance payers.
The implementation of electronic health records is a major change factor for both patients and providers in helping with the management of chronic illness.These records which document entire patient encounters and enable both patients and physicians to access real-time patient information, provide benchmark data that is current, accurate and fosters evidence-based medicine for better overall short and long-term care.
So what can the patient do to insure that your chronic condition is properly monitored and you are getting the best care possible?
Put yourself in charge and become an empowered, engaged patient who understands your disease, engages with others who have a similar condition, and comes to a medical appointment prepared with questions you need answered,.
Seek out resources. There are many community-based and non-profit organizations that offer patient education and support
Take a class on management of your specific condition – offered through community organizations, hospitals and health clinics
Engage in healthy activity such as exercise, yoga and proper nutrition
Talk to your doctor
By 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that there will be 157 million individuals with chronic conditions. That number is expected to increase by one percent per year between 2020 and 2030 to 171 million. A large portion of these individuals develop chronic conditions because of our unhealthy eating habits.What this means is that we have the power to change to a healthier lifestyle and with a little luck ,many of us can avoid these chronic conditions.