Indeed, if a healthcare system is managing chronic disease patients, focusing on treating their symptoms and only seeing them at annual visits, what happens during the remaining 364 days?
This gap in their day-to-day lives becomes an opportunity for patients to start their empowerment journey, as well as a chance for innovators to step up and develop the tools needed to accomplish this.
It’s all part of healthcare systems’ transition from ‘health care’ to ‘data-driven self-care’. That is, from treatment that the patient passively receives, to the building of an empowerment experience where patients actively manage their own health.
We can represent the empowerment journey in different phases, where patients personalise the level of engagement required for their specific needs.
Each phase shows a level of action and engagement that increases, together with a corresponding ‘empowerment increment’. Each phase also represents an area where those who intend to support patients, whether they are physicians, pharma companies, innovators or other patients, can supply the necessary tools to do so.
If someone wants to tell the story of their empowerment journey experience, this begins with an initial phase, where patients acknowledge their health status and gather the necessary information from sources such as their physician, relevant patient associations, blogs and health programmes.
In the second step, we can see that awareness encourages exploration of actions available to patients, such as looking for mindful dialogue with their doctor and sharing their experiences with other patients.
Once the patient is stronger, thanks in no small part to having gained awareness and benefited from a support community, they can then move on to directly managing their own healthcare status.
This is a key step, both for the patient and for healthcare stakeholders. Indeed, it is the phase where innovative digital health tools start to gain traction, nurtured by data that patients themselves input during the daily management of their disease.
We also see the caregiver community, as well as other patients, partnering with them in their daily life, to fill the gaps between physician visits that traditionally exist with multiple new opportunities for engagement.
Finally, the last step in this journey – at least for now – sees newly active and empowered patients mentoring others who are just starting out on their own journeys.
There are numerous examples of patients creating their own self-management systems, with the innovators behind the digital diabetes therapy programmes One Drop (Jeff Dachis) and mySugr (Fredrik Debong) being just two examples.
As Jeff has said in the past, software will do a better job than, and even ‘eat’, traditional healthcare, by empowering millions of people to take care of themselves each and every day.
Therefore, the axiom that ‘everything that can be digital, will be’ is just as applicable to healthcare as to other aspects of our lives. New models of interaction are already here. People are already willing to share not just their private photos on social networks, but also their health data if it means they will obtain better care.
The unprecedented amount of data that is available is transforming digital health solutions into population health management tools, and in the process revolutionising models of care and the way that physicians practice medicine. This ecosystem is already producing results – it works, and it is just the beginning.
Elena Pirofalo is experience director at Healthware International. She is responsible for creating and leading strategies that deliver a consistent brand experience on an omni-channel basis within a multi-faceted user context. Focusing on the intersection of art, content and user experience, Elena is in charge of delivering innovative experiences to improve health outcomes and transform clients’ businesses. Elena has over 15 years’ experience in digital healthcare communications developed at Healthware International in key strategic roles.