Eric Boothe, director business development for Life Sciences, on how the Healh 2.0 movement can help boost adherence
Health 2.0—the drive to use information networks to personalize healthcare and promote health education—is a natural outflow of the direction in which society has moved.
Americans are logged onto the Internet and using its vast resources to find customized solutions for life’s many issues, including healthcare diagnosis and treatment.
Nearly 75 percent of US adults have access to the Internet, and searches for health information are the third most common online activity, according to findings released in February from the Pew Internet and American Life project survey.
Access to the Web’s vast resources has raised expectations of Americans who no longer settle for mass-developed messages or one-size-fits-all answers from service providers.
Likewise, healthcare consumers increasingly expect more control in medical care, including greater involvement in treatment decisions.
The medical industry overall has moved slowly toward Health 2.0, largely hampered by the size and complexity of the healthcare system, government involvement, regulatory requirements, and the sheer cost that may be involved in implementing interactive programming on a large scale.
Despite these obstacles, there are many, largely untapped, opportunities to expand the reach and engagement of patients for education concerning drugs, disease states, and treatment options.
Some physician practices and pharmacies are moving ahead in building online relationships, helping customers access relevant and credible health information online, and using the Internet or digital tools to schedule office visits or renew prescriptions.
Digital resources also provide the ideal tools to effectively implement patient adherence programs, which empower patients to take an active role in managing their medications, enhance communication between patients and the healthcare team, and encourage collaboration among pharmacists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals.
Existing Internet resources provide a likely launch point for any Health 2.0 or patient adherence initiative.
Individuals have long been able to access health resources through websites for medical providers as well as manufacturers of medical devices and prescription drugs, and most websites provide an avenue by which to request further information on products or services.
Expansion beyond just a single website is critical, however, to fully engage customers or individuals managing a chronic illness.
Reaching individuals from a broad range of demographic groups requires interactive communication via multiple channels.
In an increasingly mobile and interactive society, information must be accessible wherever an individual is located, whether they are logged on to a computer at home, visiting a mobile website via a smartphone, or simply standing in line at the pharmacy.
An effective patient adherence campaign coordinates customer contact points across a variety of high-tech and traditional media, invites individuals into an automatic campaign of personalized communication, makes enrollment effortless, and provides enrollees with ongoing relevant, personal outreach designed to improve medical care for each individual.
Successful adherence programs provide constant access and ongoing communication.
To accomplish this, the growing market of apps for mobile technology—for example, iPhone, iPad or Android platforms—can be employed as follow-up communication tools for enrollees in adherence programs. (For more on apps, see ‘Pharma goes mobile: Making the most of the app opportunity’ and ‘App review: Getting to grips with apps’.)
Once downloaded, an app can be used to facilitate patient compliance with therapy by personalizing communication to an individual’s needs.
Using apps, it’s possible to link to online content, notify users of updates, or push notices out.
Reminders can be customized for product refills, doctor appointments, testing, and more.
In the near future, interactive technology also will enable clinicians to monitor a patient’s chemical levels or vital signs remotely and proactively address potential complications.
For example, using home testing and diagnostic devices currently under development, patients may measure their own glucose levels, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and temperature and then transmit the data to clinicians. (For more on interactive technology, see ‘Future pharma: The home as healthcare center’.)
The goal of Health 2.0 is to use interactive digital medicine to move patients from the margins of the medical system into the center and empower them to take a more active role in maintaining health, managing long-term conditions or disease, or recognizing when symptoms may warrant a physician visit.
Digital tools and interactive communication employed for a patient adherence program provide an efficient and cost-effective way in which pharmacists and physicians not only can educate patients on disease states and treatment options but also encourage compliance with therapy.
In this way, the Health 2.0 movement holds great promise for improving the long-term management of chronic illness, reducing morbidity, and perhaps decreasing lifetime medical costs for individuals diagnosed with a chronic disease.
Eric Boothe (email@example.com) is director of business development, Life Sciences Division, EarthColor, which offers marketing and print technology solutions for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
For everything patient-related, join the sector’s other key players at Patient Adherence, Communication and Engagement (PACE) USA on October 24-25 in Philadelphia. Download the full PACE agenda and speaker line-up here. Want to know more? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read our Patients’ Week stories from 2010, see Patients’ Week 2010.
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