Chronic and more complex care needs are on the rise. With mortality rates decreasing, a wide range of chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension and emphysema have become increasingly prevalent. A recent study found that 60% of Americans have at least one chronic condition and 42% have more than one. That’s about 150 million Americans living with at least one chronic condition, 100 million with more than one chronic condition and about 12%, or 30 million Americans, live with five chronic conditions or more. While these conditions are most prominent among people over the age of 65, around half of people in their mid-40’s to mid-60’s deal with multiple chronic conditions, as well.

Treating patients with multiple chronic care conditions often means that the patient’s care team involves a variety of health professionals—for example, the patient may be heavily dependent on a cardiologist to control high blood pressure as well as a pulmonologist to treat emphysema. In addition to specialist doctors, the patient may also have a primary care doctor who is familiar with their health history. While these members of the care team may not be working in the same place or practice at the same time, they need to perform their roles in a way that is complementary, rather than obstructive, optimizing care for the patient. If a patient visits their primary doctor complaining of chronic headaches, the primary care doctor should either already be aware of the medications the patient is on, or confirm with the patient’s doctors before prescribing a new medication that could adversely affect the patient. This is a genuine issue—over 20% of older adults in the US take a medication that can adversely affect another chronic condition.

For patients with multiple chronic health care conditions and their caregivers, the amount of information and instructions they are given can often be overwhelming. In conversations with healthcare practitioners, patients tend to focus on information about the diagnosis and quickly forget what they are told about treatment. Additionally, the more information provided to the patient, the less they tend to remember—in fact various estimates show that patients on average only retain between 10 – 25% of the information shared by a physician, with one study finding that almost half the information that patients actually remember is incorrect.

Creating a comprehensive circle of care for patients with chronic conditions is difficult. With the onslaught of information provided to them, patients may forget to take their medications or miss appointments. Adherence to a comprehensive care plan can become a major problem—about 50% of patients with chronic conditions do not take their long-term medications as prescribed.

Non-adherence and missed appointments negatively affect both patients and healthcare providers as it can result in readmissions and extensive costs to the providers. Non-adherence is thought to contribute to at least 10% of all hospitalizations and costs the American healthcare system approximately $100 billion to $289 billion annually. Missed appointments costs the American health system about $150 billion a year.

One solution to these issues is increased, systematic communications. Text messaging interventions are proven to improve patients’ medication adherence rate. Text message reminders also increase attendance to healthcare appointments. This is not surprising when we consider that 99% of text messages are opened and 90% of them are read within three minutes of receipt. But text messaging brings its own set of challenges. Standard SMS text messaging is not encrypted and not HIPAA compliant, thereby limiting the amount of information that healthcare providers can place in the text. Text messages cannot include any ePHI, so any information that could be linked to a specific individual cannot be included in a standard text message. Generic informatic like reminders to take medication or appointment times may be sent to patients—but for patients juggling several appointments and multiple medications, it may be difficult for them to keep track of instructions without specifics and in fact could aid in further confusion. Additionally, healthcare staff do not have time to individually text patients with multiple reminders about medication adherence or appointments. So what is the answer?

Secure Messaging and Engagement Platforms like Vaporstream can now provide a solution for this challenge. The HIPAA compliant platform can provide care team members with an efficient communication and collaboration tool to discuss patients’ care plans, while also automating a series of communications to engage the patient in their prescribed care plan. Using Vaporstream, healthcare providers can automate messages to patients for appointment reminders, medication adherence and to provide educational and motivational information. The series of texts can be delivered at the point in time needed by the patient to ensure adherence, improve outcomes and reduce confusion and readmissions.

At times, the healthcare system can seem obtuse and not-patient friendly, especially as patients struggle to keep track of what can seem like a mammoth amount of information. Keeping the patient in sync with their care plan while removing mundane hourly phone tasks from medical staff can be game changing for patients and care teams. Platforms like Vaporstream improve the care team experience by making it simpler for patients to remember to take medication, attend appointments and procedures and practice healthy lifestyles, while ensuring that healthcare providers reduce, and in some cases, regain lost revenue.

To find out more about how Vaporstream can help you increase revenue and improve patient outcomes with our Secure Messaging and Engagement Platform contact us or request a demo to see Vaporstream in action.

Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle