Personal health management or self-management has been a basic tenet of chronic disease management for a long time. However, often the patient’s attitude towards healthcare has been to go to the doctor and say, “Fix me”. This approach is no longer viable because it provides only satisfactory responses to short-term problems and stretches medical professional resources thin. Add to this the basic fact that 75% of all adults over 65 have a chronic illness – half of this group has multiple illnesses– and it is easy to see how medical provider’s resources are struggling to provide cost-effective, quality care to their chronic disease patients. The end result is that self-management has to mean more than the patient following doctor’s orders. Self-management in today’s world needs to promote a more active role for the patient in their own healthcare solutions.
What does this mean, though? It means acknowledging that the patient should play a lead role in managing their care. This does not mean that the patient should go it alone, but a collaborative approach needs to be employed where medical professional and patient work together to define problems, set goals and create plans. Think of it as a team sport where the patient is the team captain and all of the medical professionals that the patient sees play specialized roles on the team. The patient is the leader and the coordinator, but each professional contributes important pieces to make the team successful.
Another difficulty in providing effective management of chronic disease is that often patients go several months between medical appointments. More frequent visits are simply too costly for patients and too time consuming for care givers. This is especially true in cases where appointments often include no actual medical treatment, but are used to exchange information between patient and medical professional. This strongly suggests that an effective self-management strategy must improve communication between medical visits.
Several different strategies have been looked at over the years to improve self-management, and according to the National Health Institute one thing is clear – any program adopted should be readily applicable to more than one condition. This is because multiple strategies make it difficult for the whole health care team to be on the same page. There are also six core strategies that should be included in any effective self-management routine:
- Patient self-education about their condition
- Routine monitoring and management of symptoms
- Patient/Professional partnership in deciding when medical help is needed
- Communication between patient and professional via means other than just face-to-face
- Developing and maintaining appropriate exercise and nutritional programs
- Finding ways to do the above with minimal impact on the patient’s life
There are several Internet-based personal health management solutions designed with many of these six strategies in mind. However, when looking at these solutions it is important to look for one that allows you to work with more than one aspect of your health at a time. This is important since most chronic diseases lead to complications that must also be tracked. Thus, having a system that can work with multiple conditions is cost-effective over time since it eliminates the need to learn and keep tabs on multiple software applications.
Most of these online tools do help patients achieve two primary goals of modern self-management healthcare: Empowering the patient and improving patient-doctor communication. Patient self-management is quickly becoming a key part of the solution to the growing health care crisis. These new online personal health management solutions help make simple, comprehensive, cost-effective self-management a reality.
To learn more about personal health management o visit the MedKeep website’s section on self management [http://www.medkeep.com/selfmanagement/default.aspx].