Why are wellness and weight management programs becoming so popular in private medical practices? To put it simply, a healthy mind and a healthy body weight generally means greater overall health and a better response to treatment across the board. Let’s take a look at these healthcare technology trends.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight has long been recognized as one of the best things a person can do to reduce their risk of serious disease development and progression. And yet, despite its importance, support for weight management and overall wellness is often overlooked when patients engage with their health care providers.
Chiropractors are uniquely positioned to help patients learn about and adopt healthy new habits. For most individuals, losing just a few pounds and keeping that weight off can mean all the difference for chronic joint pain and lower back pain. In fact, it could be argued that failing to address the issue of obesity or the condition of being overweight in a client does them a disservice. Even when a client’s pain and other symptoms are caused by a specific morbidity, supporting that client through wellness and weight management programs could mean the difference between successful long-term pain management and an ongoing battle where interventions have limited impact.
Digital Solutions Help Patients Take Ownership of Their Health Journey
Digital health care solutions represent one of the best tools in a physician’s armory to enable patients to be more engaged in their own health care journey. Such interventions can, for instance, help patients to better understand how their health concerns overlap.
Imagine an individual with chronic back pain, digestive problems, diabetes, and depression. Like many such patients, this individual likely considers these three concerns as entirely distinct. The result? Limited motivation to modify dietary and lifestyle behaviors. By enabling this person to track their symptoms of all three conditions online and giving this person access to carefully curated online information through a patient portal, a chiropractor or physician makes it easier for their patient to see how their health challenges intersect. Once these important connections are made, this patient is much more likely to feel motivated to pursue and maintain dietary and lifestyle changes that support their overall health and wellness. Indeed, digital interventions have already been seen to help address depression in people with diabetes.
Weight management programs can be especially useful in chiropractic and pain management clinics because a healthy body weight also supports better blood sugar regulation, which means better control of inflammation. Clinicians can use simple digital tools to create a visual representation for a patient, showing how their body weight, blood sugar regulation, pain and other symptoms are interlinked. Then once that patient begins to engage in healthier behaviors, the same tool can be used to track the positive effects of dietary and lifestyle modifications, which helps them to stay motivated for the long-term.
Using Data to Support Better Patient Outcomes
The use of digital health technologies can also foster better outcomes for patients in a more systematic way. Greater data aggregation and access to simple and effective analytics means that private practices and the medical industry in general can more easily recognize and act on trends in any given patient population. Consider the following examples of how this might play out in a chiropractic practice.
Clinic staff performing basic data analysis notice that an increasing percentage of patients with chronic pain are also obese - To better support pain management in this population, the clinic establishes an on-site weight-loss support group, inviting those most likely to benefit from the intervention.
A clinician suspects that a large number of their patients experience greater symptoms of depression and have a harder time with pain management in winter months – the clinician runs a basic data analysis and sees that the data supports their hunch. They then work with clinic staff to identify at-risk patients and take steps to establish personalized check-ins based on patient medical history; offer an increased number of social activities at this time of year (such as meditation classes and nature walks); and establish individualized pain management plans to help patients through those difficult few months.
Wellness Strategies for Improved Pain Management
For pain management clinicians, digital technology makes it easier than ever to be alerted to potential early warning signs that affect patient outcomes. For instance, enabling a patient to input data about their pain levels and use of pain relief medications at home through a patient portal, gives the clinician unprecedented insight into that particular patient’s needs. This facilitates prompt intervention as problems can be recognized early and nipped in the bud before they become entrenched.
Medical authorities worldwide have recently revised guidelines for pain management to place the emphasis on non-drug interventions. Given the horrors of the opioid crisis, helping patients to find alternative, effective, strategies to manage pain is of the utmost importance. For chiropractors, digital solutions can be used to support patients in adopting and maintaining effective alternative pain management strategies, such as mindfulness and meditation and yoga.
For pain management specialists and chiropractors, this unparalleled access to information and engagement with clients is already being seen as an industry game changer. Patient portals make communication easier between the patient and physician, which make for more effective in-person consultations, a better working relationship, and greater engagement. Digital solutions also make it simpler and more efficient for health care professionals to talk to each other, enabling easier referrals, greater knowledge sharing between professionals, and an overall trend towards higher quality health care across the board.
A Healthy Appetite for Digital Solutions
Nearly 9 in 10 Canadians (87%) agree that digital healthcare technology trends, specifically accessible, secure information-sharing between individuals and health-care professionals, would have a positive impact on their health. This is according to the results of the Telus Health Digital Life survey carried out in 2017. Unsurprisingly, around the same number (89%) of health-care professionals feel the same way, with digital support for patient wellness and weight management now recognized by many physicians, chiropractors, and pain management specialists as playing a key role in successful outcomes for patients.
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