“I choose to live in the present because when you suffer from chronic illness, you don’t have a choice. It’s day by day, one foot in front of the other. When there is a good day, you soak up that moment. Those ‘good selfie’ moments are captured because they’re a gift.” - Yolanda Hadid (Model, actress and person living with a chronic condition – Lyme Disease)
This is what it is like for most people living with a chronic condition. They try to live each day the best they can as they usually can’t predict a ‘good’ from a ‘bad’ day when they wake up. For people living with a chronic condition it effects every part of their daily life – preparing children for school, going to work and even going out with friends for a bite to eat. One in three adults lives with more than one chronic condition, or multiple chronic conditions (MCC) and accrue a disproportionate health and cost burden. This figure is closer to three out of four in older adults living in developed countries and is predicted to rise dramatically, with the proportion of patients with four+ diseases almost doubling between 2015 and 2035 in the UK. Living with a chronic condition usually leaves the sufferer and their carers with many daily changes (and challenges) to their everyday life. What seems like a very easy and normal activity for a relatively healthy person could be an all day thought process and ‘fear of doing’ for someone with a chronic condition. Can technology really help?
About $4.2 billion has been invested in digital health in the first half of 2019 (Rockhealth.com) and as digital health evolves and becomes more focused on the individual we are starting to see more of what I call ‘service oriented care’ or what I will refer to as SOC. SOC is the art of creating a service that personalizes the care and health for an individual and for those who surround them in their care: loved ones, carers and physicians.
So how can SOC technology help? SOC technology can take into account all of the factors in a chronic condition or even just one area and in by supporting that one factor we can use technology that can change a person’s life for the better. Take for example the Lexilight Lamp (www.lexilight.com). It is estimated that between 5-10% of the population has dyslexia, but this number can also be as high as 17%. Reading is one of the biggest learning disabilities that a person with dyslexia will suffer from. Can you imagine helping that child or adult be able to read – that is a massive impact in their day to day life. A study from the University in Rennes in 2017 recorded how a person with dyslexia reads. Using technology the Lexilight company were able to create a SOC portable light that combines both pulsed and modulated light which makes it possible to erase the mirror effect that a dyslexic person sees. It helps a person with dyslexia be able to read faster, longer and without eye strain. What a great result!
But of the over 97,000 health and fitness apps available for download to a mobile or tablet device how does one find the right SOC support system perfect for their needs. Not only are they not all focused on chronic conditions they are also not all achieving the level of Service Oriented Care (SOC) to create real outcomes. So how does someone living with a chronic condition search through that ‘app-maze’ to find the right SOC support system to help them individually? The answer definitely lies with the right direction and encouragement from their physician. But again, it is about getting the right support system to the individual person at the most appropriate time in their care. Giving someone an app to manage their condition when first diagnosed is not for everyone. Some need to first come to terms with what they have been diagnosed with and only there after will they be ready to get support to help manage it. But it takes teamwork, without the guidance from a physician, carer or clinic they won’t be motivated.
One app I have found and believe that has been successful in focusing in on helping people with chronic conditions is Liva Health (www.livahealth.com). Liva Health is great because it actually looks at changing behaviour. It uses digital behaviour change programmes that consists of personal coaching, group-based interventions, tailored health plans, goal tracking and self-monitoring which helps people manage certain chronic conditions like diabetes and it’s comorbidities such as heart disease, obesity and COPD. Now it’s just getting the patients or people with the conditions to use it. That’s our final challenge.
A recent YouGov survey in the UK found that 73% of responding clinicians would recommend that their patients use data-driven technology if it could help them better manage their condition however they also reported that not many of their patients are taking advantage of them. By 2020 patients in Germany can be prescribed health apps and that health insurance firms in Germany will provide digital health services on tablets, computers and smartphones. That is a great first step but the next would be to convince people the value in using them. There really needs to be a mutual and beneficial gain for both parties to achieve optimal outcomes.
So whether it’s a FitBit, an app, or even a light; technology can really play an advantageous role in managing a chronic condition and with the right direction and support from a person’s care team people can begin to live better and possibly even help reverse the adverse effects of their chronic condition.