It may sound hyperbolic, but the fact is, digital health technologies are fundamentally reinventing the practice of health care. For specialty clinics particularly, digital interventions can mean the difference between an unhappy patient and stressed out staff and a successful clinical outcome with improved quality of life and a happier clinic environment for all.
Digital solutions have been used for many years to vastly improve outcomes in weight and lifestyle management clinics. More recently, several types of specialty clinics have begun to recognize the benefits of such technologies to enhance the health care experiences of their clientele. In part, this is because weight and lifestyle factors are deeply involved in almost every health issue for which specialty clinics exist.
For instance, a growing number of chiropractors see patients who have spine problems such as back or joint pain caused or significantly exacerbated by excess body weight. It’s now widely acknowledged that obesity increases both the likelihood and severity of pain, and that finding sustainable and healthy ways to reduce pain can greatly improve quality of life in people who are overweight or obese.
Many pain management clinics have begun to emphasize a weight and lifestyle management focus for patients, as have other types of specialty clinic such as those supporting patients with infertility and reproductive health, psychological health, diabetes, and more. Rather than simply advising patients attending such clinics to lose weight, clinicians helping patients with the issues just mentioned stand to gain substantially by using digital solutions to empower their patients to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Standard weight management and wellness programs rely on patients retaining knowledge and maintaining motivation and engagement outside of the clinic. The problem is that patient engagement drops off at an alarmingly high rate once a patient leaves the clinic. In fact, research has shown that patients typically forget 40-80% of what they have heard during a clinical session.
How can digital solutions help?
Digital health technologies provide an unparalleled opportunity to boost patient engagement by giving people access to information at home, supporting their health journey. Patient portals also enable patients to provide information as and when it is easiest and most useful for them. Which, in turn, dramatically improves a clinician’s ability to support every patient individually. These patient platforms help to reinforce treatment goals and strengthen the bond between clinician and patient.
In a recent discussion in Canadian Chiropractor, which looked at a recent interventional study, the writer noted how the study not only demonstrated the link between weight loss and pain reduction but also the importance of ‘a support system that can offer continued guidance and motivation’. Specifically, the lead author of the study, Andrew Schrepf, a research investigator at Michigan Medicine’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, ‘credits that approach for helping 80 per cent of the study’s participants meet or exceed their 10 per cent weight-loss goal – an “excellent” retention rate’.
Further benefits of digital health technologies
We have already discussed one key factor informing the success of implementing digital health care technologies: a recognition of the importance of weight management and nutrition in almost every aspect of health. How else, though, can digital solutions help specialty clinics achieve their goals?
Employing the right kind of digital solutions can help keep costs low and enhance access to health care for traditionally underserved patient populations. In addition, digital health interventions can:
- Boost patient engagement
- Improve patient retention
- Maximize referrals and positive feedback
- Enhance quality of care through enhanced clinician-patient engagement
- Reduce administrative burdens, thereby increasing clinicians’ time with patients
- Enhance clinician pride and satisfaction.
- Improved patient retention and enhanced referrals
A specialty clinic lives and dies by its ability to keep patients happy and to recruit new patients through meaningful referrals. Many specialty clinics face specific challenges with patient retention because successful treatment typically hinges on consistent weekly or monthly visits. Patients may cut short their care plan once they begin to feel better, without understanding why the longer-term care plan is so crucial.
In fact, a staggering 40% of patients stop their chiropractic treatment plan after just 10 sessions, and 59% stop going regularly.8 While patients tend to view chiropractic treatment as something akin to emergency medicine, digital health technology helps patients to appreciate the long-term benefits of long-term engagement in their own health. That way, patients stay engaged and active in their programs longer, and attend their clinic more often for appointments and check-ups.
Enhanced reporting and patient-clinician understanding
Patients with chronic pain (and their clinicians!) have long contended with the unique difficulties inherent in trying to communicate something painfully subjective. Pain is hard to describe and even harder to recollect after the fact, meaning that important information is all too easily underreported and overlooked when clinic visits are infrequent.
Digital health solutions include real-time reporting and the use of 3-D body mapping to enable patients to pinpoint where and when they experience pain and to rate that pain on a consistent scale. With these simple tools, patients are empowered to log pain and other symptoms as and when they arise. This gives clinicians a vastly improved view of their patients’ struggles and needs, helping them to provide vastly improved health care.
Pain-tracking software offers the clinician considerable insight into the unique experience of pain for each patient before the patient even steps into the consulting room. Instead of spending half the appointment establishing basic data, this frees the clinician and patient to have a more nuanced and focused discussion, leading to improved care and more successful pain management.
Remote monitoring to spot problems as (or before!) they arise
Another advantage of digital solutions incorporating patient portals is that patients can opt into remote monitoring. This enables their health care team to be alerted to potential problems such as escalating pain and increased use of relief medications. An alarming trend in such data can help ensure a patient receives timely care to avoid serious health consequences. Given the current opioid crisis, such measures can literally be lifesaving. And, as noted by the Medical Futurist , on a larger scale, anonymized data collection can help clinics, and the whole sector, to identify potential problems in systemic health care practices, facilitating more incisive and targeted strategies to improve pain management.
The advantages of digital health technologies go far beyond those examples given above. Sector-wide, these technologies are reshaping how we think about health care. Digital interventions provide clear solutions for deeply entrenched problems experienced every day at every specialty clinic. Digital health technologies go far beyond simple problem-solving, however. They can dramatically enhance patient satisfaction, for better quality of care, improved efficiency, a greater sense of fulfillment for clinicians, and improved health outcomes for all.
The CoachCare technology platform powers health clinics across a number of specialties, including weight loss, pain management and chiropractic care. A custom-branded mobile app, coach dashboard and connected devices combine in one integrated platform to improve patient care and increase clinic revenues. Contact us to learn more.
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