Eight services that digital health solutions must have to support patients with chronic diseases

Digital health solutions increasingly target patients with chronic health conditions. Over the last few years, eight groups of features/services have emerged that are necessary to improve the health of patients/users with chronic diseases.

The number of app-based patient oriented digital health solutions that support patients with a chronic condition has increased in recent years to reach more than 50,000 applicable solutions worldwide. Solutions offer services for the majority of globally prevalent chronic health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, coronary heart disease, dementia, depression, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

The quality of clinical validation of these solutions is still mixed. For some chronic health conditions including diabetes or various mental health conditions, the evidence that the solutions have a positive impact on patient health is strong, and for others including oncology or neurology, companies are still trying to link their services to a direct positive impact on patient’s health. In this regard, improving holistic patient outcomes may be easily achieved, though some therapeutic areas may lack specific, targetable biomarkers, and thus, have more difficulty demonstrating a positive patient outcome in a clinical validation study.

Across chronic conditions digital health solution providers have come to a standardized set of features and services that they offer to patients with chronic conditions.

Patient-oriented solutions are frequently developed for a diverse range of use cases in the chronic disease market. For these solutions, typical comprehensive service offerings in these therapeutic areas could range from remote patient monitoring apps and self-management logbooks to community support and telehealth. These digital solutions are often clinically validated through studies led by their parent companies or done in partnership with pharmaceutical companies or research institutions.

Adding the following features and use cases to a digital health solution in development has the potential to increase patient acceptance and usage of the solution, subsequently improving patient outcomes:

  1. Education – Features may include disease overviews, symptom information, and diagnosis and treatment recommendations/ standards of care. Mobile apps and/or web platforms that focus on providing education to patients often include the latest clinical treatment guidelines published by medical organizations about the therapeutic area. Providing this information to patients can help them stay knowledgeable about their health and be engaged in the care that they receive.
  2. Communication with HCPs – Direct in-app communication with their HCPs allows patients to readily access their care through video consultations, telehealth, or messaging services. Features that facilitate patient-provider communication help to increase transparency to the patient, and in turn help the HCPs provide higher quality care to their patients.
  3. Remote Patient Monitoring – Features often include connected devices and corresponding HCP dashboard and patient-facing app, so HCPs can monitor patients while they are not physically present. Mobile apps and corresponding web platforms then accumulate biomarker readings (e.g., blood glucose levels, blood pressure levels) in real time and/or longitudinally, to allow HCPs to monitor the patient.
  4. Behavior Change – May include chatbots or in-person coaching, as well as personalized lifestyle advice and tips; in some cases, digital solutions may provide structured behavior change program for specific chronic diseases. Behavior and lifestyle change is one of the most important treatments for patients experiencing chronic diseases, so behavior change features may also help with goal setting. In addition, coaching and personalized lifestyle tips may help patients stick to the goals that they set, and actually create change in their behavior.
  5. Self-Diagnosis – Features that support self / remote diagnosis are important in helping patients screen themselves before seeing an HCP. Digital solutions focused on self-diagnosis often include the use of machine learning and algorithms for risk estimation, detection, and/or stratification. This can be accomplished through the smartphone camera or by inputting patient demographic information (e.g., age, gender, lifestyle) and medical history.
  6. Symptom Tracking – Solutions include logbook features, as well as additional information for medication and biomarker tracking; may also involve utilization of a connected device to longitudinally track blood glucose and/or blood pressure readings over time.
  7. Access to Community – Forums centered around people living with the disease can allow patients with the disease to connect with their peers and other patients experiencing the disease. Building in a community in this way can help to provide a support system and evoke a spirit of solidarity, to and in those who may be navigating their diseases alone.
  8. Medication Adherence – Solutions are most often comprised of regular medication administration reminder notifications and alerts through syncing the digital solution with the phone’s software.

Digital solutions supporting patients with a chronic health condition can improve the lives of their users. The majority of leading digital health solutions targeting chronic care patients have implemented most of the eight must-have services of a chronic care digital solution. By doing this, they support patients’ self-management, direct communication with HCPs, and patients’ feelings of isolation and loneliness while combatting their disease alone. (If you would like to learn about “What are the four drivers of success in the Patient-Oriented Digital Health Solutions Market“, read R2G’s market insight here)

Companies that want to offer comprehensive digital support for patients with chronic health conditions should implement these eight digital health services to be competitive and achieve positive patient outcomes.

R2G works with digital health companies and established healthcare companies on digital health strategies and innovation management. For more information, reach out to [email protected]