Empowering patients to self-manage health with digital tools

December 15, 2022

Empowered patients mean better health outcomes

"Patient empowerment is a process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health.” The World Health Organisation.

The rise of innovative technologies over the last decade has catalysed new approaches to the delivery of care. Health-related mobile applications available to download on top app stores worldwide now surpass 350,000, with more than 90,000 digital health apps added in 2020.

Where decision-making was once governed by a team of specialist health experts, we are now seeing the shift towards patient-centric treatment pathways. Across the world, digital technology and big data are considered essential for creating sustainable healthcare systems and improving the health and well-being of the population.

Patient empowerment encourages people to be active participants in their own health, and helps build the confidence to self-care more independently. In a post-pandemic society – where health anxiety and NHS workforce pressure are at an all-time high – increasing the accessibility of personalised health tech tools has the potential to transform healthcare.

Digital services provide a scalable and accessible platform for patients to record and monitor their health journey. Apps that provide coaching can help disseminate health education to those who may otherwise struggle to access care, and can help to improve communication between the patient and their healthcare organisation.

It’s the taking part that counts

One of the difficulties in healthcare is treatment adherence: between 30-50% of people do not complete their course of treatment as intended. Whether the treatment is prescribed medication or more general lifestyle recommendations, non-completion is a major risk factor for poor outcomes, including relapse in those with mental health conditions.

However, research shows that individuals with immediate access to their provider’s appointment notes were 60% more likely to adhere to medications. When it comes to digital health, clearly, information is key. Patients that can understand and visualise their health data, such as blood pressure, heart rate and sleep patterns, are more likely to actively participate in improving their wellbeing, and mobile health apps have been found to significantly increase progress tracking of health-related goals. Technology therefore doesn’t just increase treatment adherence, it also empowers patients to make their own small, sustainable lifestyle changes for better health.

An app a day keeps the doctor away

In the same way that there are often many different medications for the same condition, there are a wide variety of digital health tools – it’s all about finding what works best for the patient.

Apps with chatbots have become a popular and effective way of providing around-the-clock support for those suffering from mental health conditions. They can also provide treatment for those who find it difficult to disclose their mental issues to a healthcare provider due to stigmatisation, or anxiety.  Alternatively, appointment rescheduling chatbots are another strategy to put decision-making in the patient’s hands by encouraging Patient Initiated Follow Ups (PIFU). These significantly reduce missed appointments and give patients more control over their own care.

For the management of chronic conditions and behavioural disorders, digital coaching apps are rapidly becoming one of the most used forms of health technologies, accounting for 47% of all apps in 2020. The last few years have seen a shift from reactive to proactive interventions in the healthcare industry, largely accelerated through the use of mobile health apps. Personalised ‘in your pocket’ digital health coaches, like Holly Health, can encourage patients to adopt healthy habits and prevent the development of chronic diseases. With instant access to research-based health advice, patients have more autonomy over their health, without the need to schedule GP appointments.

Digital health is here to stay

The rise of remote health technologies will continue to evolve and transform healthcare as we know it. Patient activation is the final step in the process towards patient empowerment, and digital health tools are the gateway. Digital health tools, like Holly Health, provide a critical service – giving patients the confidence to manage their own health, whilst offering personalised, evidence-based coaching, 24/7,  that never leaves a patient behind.