As people become more tech-savvy, the opportunities for digital health continue to grow. In the last few posts of our health tech series, we discussed the ways in which hybrid health services and connected devices were giving people more power and freedom to manage their health around the clock, as well as the impact these devices were having on establishing a diagnosis. We will now switch our focus to the post-diagnosis stage of a patient’s journey and the way remote and self-care technology is giving people more freedom in their everyday lives.
A big pain point of the healthcare providers we spoke to was patient compliance and assurance that patients were regularly taking the proper medication following a prescription from their doctor – and this is where digital health and telemedicine can help. A recent survey revealed that 93% of patients would use digital health technology to stay on top of their prescriptions and manage refills, and 91% also said a digital approach to healthcare would help them remember and stick to their appointment times. These two factors are key to treating patients effectively and reducing costs: in the months between April 2020 and February 2021 alone, the NHS lost £288 million due to the over 9.6 million appointments that were not attended due to the pandemic.
Supporting patients through their treatment and recovery requires the same diligence as the diagnosis process, which is why it’s so important to ensure support is available when required and the patient’s condition can continue to be monitored closely. This creates further opportunities for telemedicine and digital health technologies to assist patients through this journey and make it easier for them to stay on track with their treatment to ensure higher rates of satisfaction and improved patient outcomes.
A survey of 6326 patients across the UK, Germany, Sweden, and Italy who had all engaged with digital health technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed telemedicine overall had a positive impact on their healthcare experience in every category surveyed including timeliness, efficiency, effectiveness, and patient-centeredness. The figures showed that on average across the 4 countries, 49.3% of patients noted they had a more positive experience with their care provider when using digital health technologies, 40.1% reported a neutral experience (the experience was as expected: not overly positive or negative), and 10.6% of respondents had a negative experience following a digital health experience. The researchers accredited these negative experiences to patients having difficulty using the required software, lack of purpose-built regulated software options for professionals to use with their patients, and lack of interest in digital technology amongst older age groups. Throughout the pandemic especially, these factors also gave patients less freedom to self-manage their care, which is a further pain point we’ve come to recognise as software developers in the digital health industry.
Self-management helps provide patients with transparency and allows them to track symptoms as they happen – making it easier to report advances in a condition or side effects to their healthcare provider and receive better treatment.
However in some cases, self-management can be very difficult due to the nature of the patient’s condition, and in these instances, we can provide solutions for remote care. In a recently-released project, Zudu worked with Ravencourt to redevelop their Safer Walking app – an Android and iOS app together with a physical connected tracker, designed to give patients with dementia the freedom to go outside unaccompanied and in their own time. The app works by letting carers and loved ones track a patient’s location in real-time using the tracking device worn by the patient. The carer can set safe zones in the app and receive alerts when the patient leaves these zones – letting the carer know they may need assistance to get back. Should a patient at any point feel disorientated or in a case of emergency, they can use the SOS button on the tracker device to call their carer for help and have a two-way voice conversation.
Apps that promote this type of care and combine the remote care aspect can help lessen the load on healthcare providers as well as reduce pressure on emergency services personnel as they can help minimise avoidable service use in instances where there is no genuine emergency and the patient simply requires further clarification or wants to ask a question about a symptom they are experiencing or medication they might be taking. Allowing patients access to this type of support digitally additionally lowers wait times for more urgent appointments, thus giving clinics the capacity to look after more patients and reducing time spent filling out post-appointment paperwork. It can also provide a more personalised and gamified experience that helps engage users with their treatment plan. One such example is the app, MySugr, which incentivises and rewards patients for checking their glucose levels regularly as well as using different app features to gain a better understanding of the effects their eating habits may be having on their body.
Digital health technology and self-care apps additionally help track a patient’s symptoms and progress following a diagnosis which can provide valuable data about how well the treatment plan is working and what additional steps may be required to assist the patient further – things that can all be reviewed remotely or analysed ahead of a checkup. Facilitating this type of patient independence via digital means is a process that has already started: what’s important next is to ensure the software healthcare providers use is suitable, user-friendly, and secure, which are key features our team at Zudu would be more than happy to assist with.
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