Any health issue that lasts more than a year and requires ongoing treatment is classified as a chronic health condition. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the world, plus they are associated with the growing healthcare costs affecting the global economy. What used to be known as diseases of rich people in the distant past now have a correlation with low-income patients as well. Find out how chronic disease management programs can improve the health outcomes of people with chronic illnesses and reduce their medical costs.
What is the Purpose of Chronic Disease Management?
Continuity of care in patients with a chronic condition is the ultimate goal of a chronic disease management program, to improve the patient's quality of life and prevent their condition from progressing into something more dangerous or life-threatening. The provision of chronic disease care and management is not limited to treating the patient's symptoms. A team of health professionals, or allied health professionals, works closely with the patient, the latter's family members, and their primary physician as well, to improve patient outcomes through regular check-up, healthy weight management and other treatment methods.
Chronic disease management also includes patient education. This is to ensure individual patients and their respective families reap the benefits of self-management support, which basically means taking of medications, recording of any sinister symptoms and compliance with other regimens of care prescribed by the doctor. Establishing self-management programs will not only improve the quality of care a person with a chronic condition is receiving, but it will also decrease the mortality in patients with medical conditions that are chronic by nature.
What are the Most Common Chronic Diseases?
There is a vast array of chronic or long-term conditions, many of which triggered by lifestyle habits such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption. However, the most common ones that are causing a significant economic burden in Australia and other parts of the world are as follows:
- Lung cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS)
What are the Benefits of Chronic Disease Care & Management?
Putting patients with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or other chronic conditions that require complex care on a chronic disease management program allows them to receive better quality of care. In addition to regular doctor's visits, patients are monitored by allied health professionals from different multidisciplinary teams. A chronic disease self-management program can be delivered in a wide range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, community health centres, rehabilitation clinics or at home.
Disease management programs may improve physical health outcomes and mental health, reduce medical costs and decrease mortality rate among patients with chronic conditions. In fact, studies show that disease management programs have improved the clinical outcomes in patients with hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, kidney failure, asthma and COPD among others.
Unfortunately, poor patients that require chronic care are unable to stick to a self-management support program, let alone follow through with their treatment plans, as they are financially burdened. A systematic review of this chronic disease model may be required to determine how to make quality care for patients in poverty-stricken groups more feasible.
A 2012 study published in the academic journal of the University of Chicago's school of social work suggests that community health workers trained by a licensed social worker can help break the sociocultural barriers hindering the poor from understanding the nature of their chronic disease and receiving essential medical care.
It helps to know, though, that chronic disease management is a clinical practice that combines standard primary care and allied health services. The latter includes acupuncture and other natural health modalities which patients may opt for as an adjunct treatment.