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Using Mobile Health Apps to Improve Patient Experience, Outcomes for Diabetic and Pre-Diabetic Populations

Man looking at a fitness app

Chronic disease is an epidemic with nearly half of adults in the United States battling more than one condition, according to a 2017 study by the RAND Corporation. Managing diseases is challenging for not only patients and their caregivers, but also for providers trying to assimilate patient information about their diseases.

One of the most expensive conditions to manage is diabetes, which reached $327 billion in total cost of care and $237 billion in direct medical expenses in 2017, according to the American Diabetes Association. The cost of caring for diabetes already equates to more than 20 percent of healthcare spending in the U.S—that tab is set to grow, with 30 million U.S. adults living with diabetes and 84 million (more than 1 out of every 3 adults) with prediabetes, a higher than normal blood sugar level that puts them on track to develop the disease. Not only does diabetes double medical expenses and inpatient visits for those diagnosed with it, but it can also cause life-altering complications such as blindness, kidney disease, amputations, and heart disease.

Providers are under more pressure than ever to help patients manage their diseases in order to avoid costly hospital readmissions and progressions. A big challenge for those in both inpatient and ambulatory settings is finding enough time to effectively educate patients about diabetes and how to manage it once they diagnosed or make lifestyle improvements to reverse Type II progression.

How Mobile Health Apps Can Help

By leveraging mobile technologies such as smartphones and fitness trackers, clinicians can empower patients take charge of their own care while also providing them with continuous monitoring and support. Tapping into these low-cost technologies allows providers to connect with patients frequently and track metrics such as weight, exercise, and medication adherence, more consistently and reliably.

For providers to distinguish themselves from the proliferation of direct-to-consumer and payer offerings in the $28 billion mobile health app market, they need to offer their own mobile health solution. Up to 24 million people with diabetes are expected to use a smartphone or tablet app this year to manage their condition, and patients say they tend to prefer apps recommended by a healthcare provider.

The most effective apps aggregate data from a variety of sources – including medical records from the provider and information that shares patients – for a holistic look at what’s happening with each individual.

A Virtual Solution for Diabetes Management

A diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes means patients faced with making lots of sudden lifestyle changes, which can be overwhelming. It can be easy for them to give up and fall through the cracks of the healthcare system. At MEDHOST, we are working to tackle this challenge through our Condition Management Solution, a mobile application that is part of our patient engagement platform.

Developed with the expertise from clinicians, physicians, and diabetic patients in the field, this cloud solution enables health coaches to communicate with patients in real time and reinforce behaviors they are already promoting through in-person visits and educational programs. Incorporating a digitized version of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) curriculum, the app helps providers scale their diabetes prevention programs across growing patient populations and deliver structured interventions and ongoing feedback to participants.

With the rollout of CMS’ Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, which went into effect in April, it also creates an opportunity for hospitals and healthcare facilities to bring in more reimbursement dollars. The program offers up to $670 per patient for providers that can motivate individuals to attend educational sessions and meet weight loss goals over the course of two years. Though these sessions must deliver in person, the app gives patients and clinicians a touchstone between visits, providing participants with more personalized coaching and support and ensuring better outcomes and higher reimbursements.

Care Plans

Coaches can use the app to customize care plans for patients, provide them with supplemental educational materials, set metrics, and break goals down into daily, manageable tasks. They can monitor how patients are progressing via alerts, which automatically generate when readings are outside the normal range, as well as adjust plans and send secure messages or nudges to patients when they need intervention or encouragement.

Patients can log into the application easily from their smartphones and view a daily task list that prompts them to track exercise, meals, sleep habits, blood glucose, and medications. They can see how they are trending over time via a wellness dashboard and a downloadable report to share with their doctor or caregiver. They can also sync the app with their own wellness device and select what information they want to share with their coach.

The solution also features a support group app that provides patients with a secure, private digital forum for exchanging information, sharing struggles, and motivating each other to achieve their goals.

Apps may work for younger patients, but what about older ones who represent the majority of those with diabetes? A pilot we conducted with ACE Medical Group, a primary care and weight management clinic serving a high percentage of elderly patients in Rock Hill, S.C., reveal that the technology was just as effective for older generations. Learn more about the results of our pilot here or listen to our webinar to hear more about how the Condition Management app can help you improve program compliance, outcomes, and quality of life for diabetic and pre-diabetic populations.

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