Getting patients to consistently follow treatment plans, especially when self-management and prevention are major components, is no easy feat. But can we really blame them? We’re expecting patients with chronic disease to develop new skills, knowledge and habits almost overnight.
And while most patients receive detailed instructions and information, they may only see their clinician a few times a year. In addition, many patient education classes are offered during the day, when most patients are at work. Needless to say, many struggle to make changes and follow through.
However, the rise of social media and mobile apps has provided us with new ways to engage patients and streamline interoperability. Now patients can connect with these tools of engagement anytime, anywhere.
What are the tools of engagement?
At Melon, our goal is to empower people to take control of their health using digital tools of engagement. Here’s how these tech-enabled resources work.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that patients need easy ways to track their health at home. Mobile health (mHealth) apps are meeting that need. These apps enable people with chronic illness to track symptoms, increase their knowledge, and be held accountable.
On the Melon Health app, for instance, patients can log weight loss, waist measurements, mood, physical activity, and food intake. These tracking capabilities sync with the health goals they’ve set up—enabling them to see improvement over time. These features are especially important for patients in maintenance stages in supporting long term compliance with health and wellness goals.
In addition to physical metrics, Melon’s mobile application allows patients to track their mental health. This data plays a key role in how health coaches advise patients with chronic disease. Health coaches can look for worsening emotional health symptoms and help patients take precautionary steps to avoid depression.
Reminders and built-in accountability are also important features—especially when it comes to managing chronic illnesses.
A primary role of many mHealth apps is to remind patients to take their medication. According to the World Health Organization, only 50% of people with chronic disease take their meds as prescribed. Helping patients remember when - and why - to take their often life-saving or life-improving medication can lower ED utilization and medical costs.
Monitoring physical activity and tracking food choices are other ways patients can benefit from digital health tools. These features can alleviate pressure and feelings of being overwhelmed for patients, and make it easier to make lasting changes and healthier choices.
We’re all unique. That’s why fully automated experiences won’t work. At Melon, we want patient engagement to center around the patient and meet their specific needs. In this way, we believe patients will be better equipped to counteract their personal barriers to behavior change.
Melon’s mobile app encourages social interaction and support, much like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do but in a secure and intimate setting with others going through the same thing. Patients can post and allow their peers to comment or like their status updates. This communication between peers creates an active and supportive online environment where patients can learn from and support each other.
Plus, the app focuses on interoperability between health coaches, clinicians and patients. As health coaches monitor a patient’s symptoms and status, they can guide their goal setting process. In addition, nurses can also comment on, and respond to, patient concerns.
This conversational-type platform allows for greater communication between clinical staff, non-clinical support and patients themselves. Because of this, patients will benefit from a more personalized online experience that can result in long term health benefits.
Integration with wearables
Wearables have added another positive element to health tracking. For instance, patients can monitor conditions such as hypertension through their smart-watch. Then they then can share this data if they choose with their clinicians.
Melon takes this one step further and integrates wearables with the mobile app. Fitbit, glucose monitors and over 300 wearables and biometric sensors integrate with Melon, providing even more useful patient data for patients and also clinicians. This allows clinicians to provide medical advice that is based on real data. It also provides clinicians with and increased awareness of patient conditions.
Are the tools of engagement effective?
This innovative use of technology sounds great, but does it actually work?
The answer is yes.
A recent study conducted on patient engagement strategies using technology revealed that overall clinicians noticed major benefits. Seventy-five percent of clinicians believe that mHealth apps can improve patient conditions. Our results here at Melon strongly agree with this research.
Melon’s patient engagement tools facilitate communication. As a result, patients take their health more seriously and are more likely to seek medical help only when needed. Plus, patients are encouraged to focus on stages of change rather than radical, life-altering ones.
These online tools are designed to meet the patient exactly where they are in their health and wellness journey. And this progressive approach can empower patients to make permanent lifestyle changes. While these tools support patients in managing chronic disease, they also help low-risk patients prevent the onset of chronic disease and help high-risk patients prevent serious illness.
By providing patients with mobile apps that connect with their lives, patients have a better understanding of their health, how to manage it and when to seek medical advice. Patients, in turn, will learn how to self-manage chronic disease and will experience better outcomes and lead healthier, happier lives.
How are you integrating this potentially life-saving technology into your primary care organization?