Revenue Cycle Management Blog | GroupOne Health Source

5 Ways to Support Your Patients With Chronic Health Conditions

Written by Kaitlyn Houseman | January 6, 2016

Though they can happen at any age, single and multiple chronic health conditions are more common in older patients, and managing them effectively requires that the patient take active part in daily healthcare decisions. A collaborative approach may require more time up front, but long term it can decrease demands on your time by empowering the patient to take better control of his or her health.

Some common chronic health conditions (which require ongoing management over a period of years) include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, respiratory disease, and cancer. The old-fashioned care models where physicians tell patients what to do to motivate change and then expect it to happen don't exactly work well. In fact, supporting people with chronic health conditions is challenging for many reasons.

Why Supporting Patients With Chronic Conditions Is Challenging

When someone has multiple chronic health conditions, he or she faces potentially competing health outcomes. Balancing outcomes requires engaging patients in prioritizing what goals matter most to them. Additionally, treatments may overlap and interact with each other, affecting multiple health conditions.

Treating one condition, for example, could worsen another. Finally, many medical guidelines about coping with chronic conditions focus on single conditions and rarely cover integrating care for people with multiple chronic conditions. Nonetheless, there are essential steps healthcare providers can take to help those with chronic health problems. Here are 5 worth considering.

1. Set the Stage By Empowering Patients to Take More Control of Their Health

Patients must know that their illnesses are serious and that their condition is mostly self-managed. Patients may believe that a condition they manage themselves can't be that serious, and it's important to dispel this notion.

It's also important to explain that they have options and should take an active part in determining which options are best. Finally, encouragement that they can make changes, and helping them with goal-setting and initial steps sets patients up for success.

2. Bear in Mind that Words Spoken by the Doctor Carry More Weight

Though a patient may ultimately spend far more time with a nutritionist or diabetes educator, for many people first hearing and learning about their condition from a physician is more meaningful and likely to produce compliance. Other medical team members can build on the initial conversation, and provide useful information about who to call about certain questions and how to know when self-management isn't sufficient.

3. Offer Information on Chronic Conditions Through Multiple Channels

Don't think that just because patients with multiple chronic conditions are usually older that putting information on the web in a patient portal is a futile exercise. Patients of all ages are eager to learn from multiple channels, including web pages, videos, and support groups. Physicians and other clinicians should repeat key points about chronic health problems at every visit so that no health conditions are forgotten or dismissed as "not important."

4. Understand What's Realistic for the Individual Patient

Simply setting out a treatment plan and assuming the patient will comply is short-sighted. Talking with the patient about the feasibility of the plan is indispensable to learning what obstacles the person faces. Those obstacles may have nothing to do with wanting to shirk responsibility for self-management, but may be practical considerations like affording medications or arranging transportation to medical appointments.

5. Choose an EMR Solution that Facilitates Better Care for Chronic Conditions

Your EMR solution plays a role too. Some systems, like eClinicalWorks EMR, offer powerful tools to help develop and model self-management plans for chronic conditions. This saves time and helps document care more thoroughly, preventing "fragmented" care, which is a real risk in patients with multiple health conditions. A technology like the eClinicalWorks Chronic Care Management Module can also boost practice efficiency through streamlined claims and billing workflows, so there's more time to devote to patient care.

Involved Patients = Better Health Outcomes

Patients who are more involved with their care tend to have better health outcomes than those who are simply told what to do. Making change happen in patients' lives is a team effort, with the patient being the primary team member. How you address and approach patients, and how you manage your practice make an enormous difference in patient satisfaction and their willingness to take steps necessary for successful self-management.