According to data released just this January in the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, some 25.8 million adults and children in the United States – 8.3 percent of the population – have diabetes. Nearly 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic. In 2010, 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in Americans 20 years and older.
The associated costs: $174 billion in total costs of diagnoses diabetes through 2007. Of this, $116 billion is for direct medical costs, $58 billion for indirect costs such as disability, work loss and premature mortality.
In an effort to support a better lifestyle and address the cost of provision of healthcare, new technology has helped create a more proactive approach to treating chronic and post-acute care conditions. Patients and providers are developing individualized health management, disease prevention and monitoring programs to minimize the potential consequences of poor health management.
Here is a prime example: Today, small, lightweight devices (about the size of a cell phone) allow diabetics to monitor -- automatically and remotely -- their blood sugar, blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels, among many other measures. This information is then transmitted wirelessly allowing them to be accessed by the patient’s healthcare providers or families. This seamless technology allows users to remotely collect, store and report timely health information anywhere. The readings can also be stored in electronic personal healthcare records at the patient’s request. Consider these as “front-end” technologies, initiated by the patient.
Online Management Tools
At the “back-end,” robust, online management tools facilitate collaboration and coordination of care between patients and healthcare providers. These systems allow patients to incorporate wellness, the management of chronic conditions, interim care and post-acute in-home care into their overall healthcare delivery.
By connecting and interacting with various devices, these software applications help capture patient clinical information and enable interested parties to be notified immediately if there is any change in a patient’s status, such as a dramatic spike in blood sugar or blood pressure. Automated alerts to changes in the patients’ health status can be sent through text messages, email or work lists, or automated telephone calls.
Provision of analysis regarding patient data to help patients and their healthcare providers continuously refine and manage medical treatment in real-time is also imperative. Additionally, patients can use online services to learn more about their condition, supplementing information and educational materials provided by their physician’s office. This information can reinforce behavioral changes and support more information-based decisions by patients and their families, which is a central component of improved wellness and management of chronic conditions.
The Value of Partnerships
One of the surest signs of this dramatic transformation rests in partnerships. Technology companies, medical schools, providers, researchers and others realize that when it comes to improving healthcare management, no one can go it alone.
Instead, they are forming alliances, sharing information and best practices, with the understanding that the answers to healthcare issues lie as much in collaboration as in innovation.
At this week’s Healthcare Information and Management System (HIMSS) meeting, opening today in Orlando, my company, SAP, will be demonstrating a partnership program with one of the nation’s preeminent chronic-disease clinics. The program is designed to use the latest information-technology solutions to better monitor and treat patients with diabetes. Both institutions have extended networks of stakeholders, which through technology, create a virtual care-management ecosystem.
Coordination and Communication
Central to the transformation of traditional, reactive health management is the active involvement of patients themselves. New technologies are wasted unless they are easy to use so that they allow patients to play an active role in their health management and understand how to avoid potential problems. The direct capture of clinical information from medical devices such as glucometers will improve the timeliness and accuracy of data sources from patients, yes. But communication of, and collaboration around the information is still the key. Constant, proactive and positive interchanges between patients, doctors and families will do more to improve wellness and chronic conditions than any amount of proselytizing or lecturing.
The coordination of care between patients and their various care providers, the use of smart devices and the monitoring of chronically ill persons clearly play interdependent roles. To succeed in bringing improved quality and value of care demands behavioral change by all involved.
Ultimately, what was once only a vision in the healthcare arena is fast becoming a reality: The power of technology, combined with the inherent need for human beings to communicate effectively, are coalescing to improve patient lifestyles and bring high-quality care to those outside the hospital, while simultaneously reducing healthcare costs.
Collectively, we are making major strides in helping our population live longer, fuller and better lives.
John Papandrea serves as the Senior Vice President and Global Health Sciences Sector Head at SAP. John is the senior executive responsible for strategy and execution of SAP’s Health Sciences business globally – inclusive of Healthcare Provider, Life Sciences (Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Biotech) and Health Insurance.
Bringing vast experience managing people and resources, as well as building business cases for information technology investments in healthcare, Mr. Papandrea joined SAP from Deloitte Consulting, where he advised large healthcare organizations on information technology strategy, effective use of technology and technology innovation.
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