Self-Care Management: A Novel Approach to 21st Century Healthcare

By 2020, the number of worldwide users of remote health monitoring devices is predicted to grow to 78.5 million. This enormous growth, almost five times the number of users in 2014, reflects the rapidly changing healthcare environment we can expect to see over the next few years. In addition to an influx of new technologies including telehealth, new dynamics will be introduced to promote patient self-management, requiring patients to take an active interest in the upkeep of their health monitors. Care managers will collaborate with their patients more integrally and patients will rely less on traditional doctor’s visits. Interposed between the doctor and patient, health tracking technology will empower the patient while also relieving some of the managerial burden on the part of the provider.

Self-management technology may ask the patient to volunteer information about their diet, exercise habits, medicine compliance, and sleeping patterns, resulting in a sense of empowerment and control as the patient develops a more robust investment in their care. Alarms and alerts from the devices will require patients to take action, maybe allowing a patient that was once expected to be constantly supervised, to now be at home alone. These changes benefit the care manager as well, providing higher quality data on the patient and offloading some of the measurement tasks, reducing workload and improving clarity.

One meta-analysis covering study found that self-management can be significantly increased by telehealth technology, improving long term results for heart disease. In this setting the clinic offers telehealth, a video conferencing portal as an organized guide and knowledge resource for the patient. Care managers can speak with their patients in any location and at any time, providing a scaffold of support--lists of precautions, warnings, check-ins and also monitoring the live stream for any abnormalities. When employed as a complement to in-person care and hospital visits, the result is the ability to keep up with patients with chronic conditions as never before. Gone is the classic scenario where the hospital functioned as a sole pressure point for all of the patient's healthcare needs. Instead, healthcare is spread between the patient's self-care and the provider's expertise in tandem.

The 78.5 million figure shows that people will increasingly become masters of their own health and are willing to marshal increasingly cost-effective consumer technologies to the task. Patients have been shown to state 90% favorability of telehealthcare options in health domains such as neurology and that 95% of patients would choose to continue with the telehealth option.  Add to this trend the findings that remote monitoring can save them visits to the hospital and improve outcomes, and a virtuous cycle promoting these telemedicine technologies ramps up.

The new healthcare landscape will invite physicians to rethink their relationship with the patient. The patient will be less of a dependent recipient of healthcare and more of an active participant working toward their wellness in cooperation with expert supervision. Enabled by the nearly 64% and counting Americans with smart-phones, self-care management with telehealth will be a proactive response to the growing burden on the healthcare system.