Patients suffering from chronic medical conditions live with the effects of these daily. Some patients are occasionally inconvenienced by mild symptoms of a hidden condition that are well controlled by medical intervention, with others living with life threatening, crippling symptoms that severely limit their quality of life. Symptoms can be so overwhelming and intruding so deeply into a patient’s life, that complexity factors such as anxiety and depression can develop, further complicating treatment needs.
The vast gulf between the two extremes of living with a chronic condition makes managing them with a ‘one size fits all’ approach impossible, if the desired outcome is patients living the best quality of health available to them.
With limited funding available to manage the increasing demand for medical interventions, how is it possible to balance patient needs with commissioning responsibility?
The ability to implement technological solutions to address this critical balancing act can already be seen in many departments and in multiple specialities. One such digital intervention is the use of clinical and patient reported outcomes software to help manage treatment and patient care.
In the case of clinicians already using a digital outcomes solution, an initial diagnosis is made and a treatment plan is created, as with their normal approach to patient care. However, this is then followed up with a digital approach to aftercare and long-term monitoring.
All patients attend clinic appointments. However, the implementation of a PROMs programme means that clinicians can monitor a patient’s quality of life and not just the patient’s symptoms, helping the clinical team to triage those in greater need of appointments.
Priority patients are identified and invited to the clinic with shorter waiting times. While all patients still receive continued interaction from their clinician, with the ability to alert the clinical team to any deterioration in the patient’s condition.
This process also engages patients in their own treatments, empowering them to take control of their condition and treatment. It also aids the patient to record and demonstrate symptoms over a period of time, as opposed to a pressurised recollection of symptoms experienced in the same time period, in a clinic appointment. This can be particularly advantageous when clinic appointments and check up’s are months and years apart.
However, it is not just patient care that benefits from the use of outcomes data in the treatment of patients with chronic conditions. There are multi-dimensional benefits for clinical services too, including:
- clinical research
- teaching or training
- reporting – for commissioners, managers and pharmacy requirements
A digital system can provide structured clinical datasets that ensure all patients are monitored equally and measured against the same set of criteria, whilst supporting case mix adjustment. This results in clinically validated data supporting better patient care, reducing admin for clinical teams, providing a better understanding of treatment efficacy and potentially lowering long-term costs.
Using an electronic outcomes system to support the long-term treatment of chronic conditions means clinicians are not just tracking a patient’s symptoms; the introduction of case mix adjustment means you can monitor the patient’s overall health status.
This overall health status can then inform commissioning requirements, indicating the most effective treatments for individuals, not just based on their condition, but incorporating co-morbidities, to provide an evidence-base for treatment funding.