Digital Health

Mobile Symptom Trackers and Chronic Disease Management

Waracle
16th September 2021
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https://waracle.com/blog/digital-health/mobile-symptom-trackers-and-chronic-disease-management/

Chronic disease management is a complex process. 

Not only are long term conditions painful and debilitating for people who have them, but they are time-consuming and expensive for the NHS and for social care providers. Over 15 million people in the UK suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, mental illness and cancer. Figures from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA are worse, showing almost 52% of the population to be affected by 1 or more long-term conditions. 

Chronic diseases are by definition ongoing, so treatment and management must follow suit. Consistent medical appointments to manage long-term conditions are a burden to the patient and a significant pressure on healthcare services. Around 50% of all GP appointments concern chronic diseases, and the cost of their treatment accounts for up to £7 of every £10 spent on health and social care.

As modern medicine continues to digitise, how can mobile tech empower patients to take disease management into their own accord? How can digital solutions enhance medical efficiency to improve the quality of care and use of clinical resources?

Read on as we explore the use of digital trackers in chronic disease management.

Medical uses for mobile symptom trackers.

The CDC defines chronic illnesses as “conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both”. They are widespread, resource-hungry and their management requires significant input by healthcare staff.

Take Diabetes Mellitus, for example, a condition involving the misregulation of glucose in the body through lack of, or insensitivity to insulin. Medical and self-care are required to monitor patients’ diet and exercise and prevent complications. 

Tracking things like carbohydrate intake, blood glucose level, insulin administration, physical exertion, blood pressure, HbA1C and more can dominate a patient’s life, let alone processing the information. By recording results on a device, mobile apps can inform patients of any necessary lifestyle corrections or suggest changes in insulin doses and provide a data-driven management plan. 

Alternatively, patients suffering from COPD can manage their treatment via apps such as myCOPD. Along with inhaler techniques and rehabilitation videos, myCOPD offers a lung function tracking feature, linked to clinicians, that monitors air exhalation volume (FEV1) trends over time, detecting abnormalities and changes. Themes are identified granting physicians a better view of disease progression and treatment efficiency.

Chronic disease management also costs healthcare services a phenomenal amount of money. While treatments are a necessity, many check-ups, appointments and consultations are not, resulting in an avoidable drain on resources. By digitising top-level chronic disease management, clinicians are liberated from unnecessary activity and free to focus their time and effort on patients directly requiring treatment. 

What impact do mobile symptom trackers have?

Domestic

In a domestic setting, mobile apps give insight into the disease and recommendations for necessary lifestyle adjustments. Artificial intelligence compares data inputs to historical data sets, monitoring trends and making suggestions if appropriate. The data is used to shape personalised disease management plans with push notifications reminding patients of necessary steps such as appointments or medication.

Patients tracking diseases via applications also benefits medical staff. Three, six and twelve-monthly visits provide a patchy data set for clinicians to make decisions against – especially when readings such as blood pressure and exertion levels may vary daily. By consistently recording figures on a device, a holistic data set is produced painting a more comprehensive picture of a patient’s health. An enhanced understanding of a patient’s situation improves the quality of care, the efficiency of treatment and overall patient experience.

Medical

In a medical setting, by synchronising trackers with healthcare services, deep learning can recognise patient readings within healthy parameters and avoid the need for a consultation. Patients in need of further assessment can be booked into a clinic through automation via the app. The resultant enhanced patient control and streamlined service have the potential to save time, money, and effort for all parties involved. 

Increased connectivity also gives physicians real-time data that may previously have been missed as patients often seek medical attention only in reaction to severe symptoms. Medics are thus able to take early action, vastly improving prognosis and outcome in the case of an illness developing negatively.

Chronic disease management via mobile technology is, therefore, more informed, more efficient and provides a higher standard of clinical care.

How can we expect this to develop?

Recent advancements are seeing patients with chronic diseases reap the benefits of connected technologies without manual input from themselves.  This is particularly useful for the elderly generation less digitally skilled or individuals who have poor dexterity or eyesight making it challenging to regularly update. 

One example is the Vectorious V-LAP, a cardiovascular microcomputer implanted in the heart’s left atrium. Real-time monitoring of heart pressure changes alerts physicians to potential cardiac arrest before the patient is aware of any symptoms. Intervening early to prevent heart failure massively improves patient outcomes, their ability to manage their disease and their resulting quality of life. 

Concerning diabetes, the latest apps can simulate the pancreas, monitoring blood glucose and autonomously administering correct insulin dosages through AI. Readings are continuously uploaded to a diabetes management platform for physicians to step in and provide personalised care if required.

As time goes on we can expect sensor-laden technology to provide more autonomous data to medical staff in the treatment of chronic disease. Without the necessity of data input from the patient, human error or missed input is negated, giving a consistent, accurate and immediate picture of a patient’s health. 

Whether through automated recording or manual input, mobile technology will continue to transform chronic disease management. Patients will be more informed, have a greater understanding and control over their illness, and enjoy a more comprehensive patient experience. Medical staff will have a clearer view of disease progression, faster response times to disease development and improved use of clinical resources. 

Waracle is an industry leader in delivering digital solutions that impact patients’ lives. We work with healthcare experts to design and develop technologies to optimise the patient experience and improve medical efficiency. Our expertise lies in crafting mobile and emerging technology applications that transform healthcare practices at scale.

If your organisation requires a digital solution to aid the management of chronic disease, speak to our experts today and find out how we can help.