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10 Trends in Digital Health That Benefit Practices and Patients

Digital health technology can empower patients, streamline care delivery, and give providers more opportunities to offer preventative care. Technology can’t replace real connections between providers and patients, but it can enhance them.

Digital health trends like personalized healthcare, patient engagement, remote care, AI, and Behavioral Healthcare Integration will transform healthcare, and providers have the power to choose which trends to embrace for their practices and their patients. 

As a Chronic Care Management provider, ChartSpan is intimately familiar with the trends of digital healthcare. Let's dive deeper into 10 of the most exciting advancements shaping healthcare this year and in years to come. 

1. Personalized Healthcare

Personalized healthcare leverages technology to create customized wellness plans based on patients’ medical history, lifestyle, and socioeconomic needs. Most providers are now familiar with EHRs, which store relevant patient information like age, personal medical history, family history, and exercise, smoking, or drinking habits for providers to view. 

Having access to this information allows providers to identify potential health risks early and intervene before they become serious conditions. But the current health trend is to take personalized care even further by supplementing the EHR with other forms of technology.

Some practices have chosen to give patients wearable devices that can record key health indicators like heart rate and blood pressure. Others have embraced care management platforms, like those used for Chronic Care Management (CCM.)

CCM requires that patients receive 20 minutes of preventative care each month. A good CCM platform stores data from each of these monthly encounters. CCM care coordinators record a wealth of patient data: care goals, progress toward those goals, recent appointments, new symptoms, concerns about medication, changes in diet or exercise, and socioeconomic needs.

Care coordinators can then instantly share that information with patients’ providers through the EHR, and the provider can follow up with the patient for in-person services or offer recommendations to the care coordinator. The more data providers have on patients’ current health, the more personalized care they can provide. 

2. Patient Engagement Technology

The days of patients being passive participants in their healthcare are over. Providers increasingly recognize that patient engagement is a critical factor in positive health outcomes. Patients who actively participate in their own care are more likely to: 

  1. Manage their conditions effectively

By understanding their health conditions and treatment goals, patients are more likely to adhere to their medication regimen and any necessary lifestyle changes. They can also help their providers understand which lifestyle changes are feasible and fit their routine, community, and culture. For example, a patient is more likely to agree to diet changes if they can still eat foods that are an important part of their heritage. 

  1. Become well-informed healthcare consumers

Easy access to health information empowers patients to make informed decisions about their care and to advocate for their needs. Chronic Care Management helps with this process by sending patients educational resources and by allowing patients to ask questions via a nurse phone line 24 hours a day. 

It’s also important to provide patients with easy access to their electronic health records (EHRs) through secure patient portals. Open communication and collaboration between patients and healthcare providers are essential for successful patient engagement.

3. Telehealth

Telehealth is a game-changer, especially for patients in remote areas or with limited mobility. This digital health trend allows patients to connect with healthcare professionals virtually via video conferencing or phone calls, reducing how frequently patients need to travel for appointments. Telehealth can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Routine check-ups and follow-up appointments
  • Management of chronic conditions
  • Mental health consultations

While medical appointments will always be conducted by a provider, care coordinators can help patients manage many chronic physical and mental health conditions remotely in between appointments. Under the supervision of the provider, care coordinators can check on patients’ care plans, care goals, appointments, and medication refills through programs like Chronic Care Management and Behavioral Health Integration (BHI)

Telehealth also facilitates improved communication and care coordination among healthcare teams. For instance, a specialist can remotely consult with a primary care physician on a patient's case, ensuring a more comprehensive approach to treatment.

4. Remote Social Determinants of Health Support

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) include factors like economic stability, housing security, access to healthy food, and education that play a significant role in patient well-being. For example, individuals living in poverty may have difficulty affording healthy food or accessing quality healthcare. Similarly, those living in unstable housing may be more susceptible to stress and illness.

Digital health trends are recognizing the importance of addressing these factors. Care coordination teams are now equipped with digital tools and resources to screen patients for SDOH needs and connect them with appropriate support services. If a patient shares that they need healthy food, safe housing, or clean clothes, their care coordinator can direct them to local food pantries, housing agencies, or clothing closets. 

5. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming healthcare in exciting ways. While AI cannot replace the human connection in healthcare, it can support providers and care coordinators by analyzing vast amounts of patient data. AI-powered tools can be used to:

  1. Suggest resources and treatment options

AI can assist providers by making treatment recommendations based on all of the data collected about a patient. Providers can then decide whether to use that recommendation based on the patient's specific condition. AI can also suggest helpful educational resources according to a patient’s condition. 

  1. Automate administrative tasks

AI can streamline workflows by automating tasks like appointment scheduling, data entry, and generating reports. This frees up valuable time for providers and care coordinators to focus on patient interaction and care delivery.

  1. Analyze patient calls

For care management programs, call analysis is one of the most popular forms of AI. AI can examine a large number of patient calls and perform analysis of word choice and tone to determine how patients are feeling during the call. The tools can then offer coaching on how care coordinators can adjust their language to make patients feel more engaged and supported. 

6. Behavioral Health Integration

Mental health is an essential component of overall well-being. Fortunately, digital health trends are making it easier for patients to access mental healthcare services. The integration of behavioral health services into primary care settings allows patients to address mental health concerns with a familiar provider, removing barriers to seeking help.

This integrated approach acknowledges the well-established link between mental and physical health conditions. For instance, depression can manifest as physical symptoms like fatigue and headaches. 

Conversely, chronic health conditions can take a toll on mental well-being, leading to anxiety or depression. By integrating behavioral health services, primary care providers can create more comprehensive care plans that address both the physical and mental aspects of a patient's health.

Digital health plays a crucial role in facilitating mental healthcare. Once a patient has been diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, they can enroll in remote care programs like Medicare’s Behavioral Health Integration. Care coordinators can then communicate with patients remotely to collaborate on goals, track their progress, and send them self-management resources via email or patient portal. 

7. Technology for FQHCs and RHCs

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) play a vital role in providing healthcare to underserved communities. But these clinics also face challenges, like limited resources and staff shortages. Digital health advancements are addressing these challenges by providing technology solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of FQHCs and RHCs. 

  1. Streamline care coordination 

Many FQHC and RHC patients can benefit from help with care goals, directions to Social Determinant of Health resources, and assistance with appointments and medication refills. But FQHCs and RHCs often lack the resources to offer remote care coordination every month while still providing in-office care.

Digital health tools can help FQHCs and RHCs or their care coordination partners screen patients for SDOH needs and connect them with relevant community resources. Digital platforms can also assist with appointment reminders, medication refill requests, and communication between care team members. These tools allow FQHC and RHC staff to focus on delivering high-quality, in-person care.

  1. Improve patient engagement

Digital tools can also be used to educate patients about their conditions, provide self-management resources, and encourage healthy behaviors. FQHCs and RHCs or their partners can use digital databases like Healthwise to look up relevant educational resources and send them out by email, patient portal, or mail. Having access to reliable, peer-reviewed health information can empower patients to take a more active role in their health and well-being.

8. Data Interoperability

Effective healthcare relies on seamless communication between different healthcare providers and platforms. Data interoperability ensures that all relevant patient data, such as medical history, medications, and lab results, is readily available to all authorized staff involved in a patient's care.

Interoperability is an important digital health trend because it eliminates the need for patients to repeat tests or provide the same information multiple times. Without interoperability, valuable information gets lost, putting patients at risk of receiving fragmented, frustrating and even duplicative care. 

Standardized data formats and secure data-sharing platforms are essential for achieving interoperability. When different healthcare systems can communicate effectively, patients benefit from a more coordinated and efficient care experience.

9. Emphasis on Cybersecurity 

The security of patient data is paramount, and data breaches have made cybersecurity one of the most important digital health trends. Digital health solutions should prioritize robust security measures to safeguard sensitive health information from unauthorized access. These measures may include:

  • Access controls: Only authorized personnel should be able to access patient data.
  • Regular security audits: Regular security audits are essential to identify and address any potential vulnerabilities.

Look for digital health platforms that comply with HIPAA regulations and have achieved industry-standard security certifications, such as HITRUST or SOC 2. These certifications provide assurance that the platform takes patient data security seriously.

10. Data Analytics

Data analytics plays a crucial role in driving evidence-based healthcare decisions. Digital health platforms that offer data tracking and analytics capabilities empower providers to monitor patient progress and adjust care goals or care plans as needed. 

Analytics are also important for care management organizations and other organizations that partner with providers. To ensure compliance, these organizations must track how much time they spend with patients, patients’ progress toward goals, what educational resources they provide, and how much time they spend working on other forms of care for patients. 

By sharing and analyzing this data, providers and care coordinators can identify which strategies are most effective and adjust the care they provide to match patients’ needs. 

Positive Trends in Digital Health for Providers and Patients

The vital connections between patients and their providers will never be replaced by technology. But digital health solutions can help providers, care coordinators, and staff provide care more efficiently and reach patients who can’t always come into the office. Ultimately, many digital health trends can empower patients, streamline care delivery, and foster a more proactive approach to healthcare.

If you’d like to learn more about how digital health tools can enhance patient care, read our case study on how ChartSpan’s CCM services work in conjunction with Healthwise, a digital resource for health literacy.

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