Amidst the many changes in American health care, a quiet technological revolution has moved treatment beyond the doctor’s office into the homes and lives of patients. Electronic web-based care management platforms provide personalized on-line wellness, prevention and treatment for chronic diseases like diabetes, depression and substance abuse. These tools improve health quality, the patient experience and overall population outcomes at reduced cost.

Smarter care

Incorporating a user-centered architecture, one such platform provides behavioral self-management tools including automated messaging to patients about nutrition, fitness or medication goals for diabetes and weight management, peer-to-peer community support and real-time access to health providers. Patients and their families can instantly access their care team and health information — helping them adhere to their care plans and goals. These personalized care apps and platforms link seamlessly to electronic medical records, providing even greater integration and communication. 

“The only question is how fast health systems can transition to these new technologies while managing the simultaneous demands of health care reform.”

This new generation of health informatics improves value-based care by leveraging patient data, which previously was only accessible by querying inpatient and outpatient records, faxed surveys to patients and other miscellaneous health encounters. The fact is most health care occurs between clinical encounters and these new personalized apps and web tools fill this gap.

All of this data allows clinicians and health systems to intervene early to improve care and lower the health care costs of high-risk populations. These interventions include, for example, the ability to send patients care notifications to practice behavioral self-management based upon on-line progress or after unanticipated ED visits. Alternately, patients can communicate with their providers for advice when confronting challenges, for example when managing their diabetes.

A bright prognosis

On the horizon, some developers are even incorporating visual and voice recognition to monitor emotional, cognitive and physiological states. Visual and speech bio-markers provide objective measures that can be correlated with the speaker's mental health status. It is hoped that voice recognition will make it easier for crisis center clinicians to assess depression, imminent suicide risk, military PTSD and traumatized adolescents. All this not only improves health care outcomes, but also results in happier patients who are better understood by their health care team.

The future of web-based chronic disease management is here. The only question is how fast health systems can transition to these new technologies while managing the simultaneous demands of health care reform. For now, comprehensively integrated disease management involving patient, provider and system-generated data holds deep promise for improving patient-centered care.