Digital Care Management: The Evolution of Patient-First Solutions

A person’s care journey doesn’t begin and end in the hospital — and neither should the support offered by healthcare teams. 

Picture this: a patient is days away from knee replacement surgery. Her doctor is checking in regularly through a digital care management app on her phone, explaining what to do and what to expect next in preparation for her procedure. With access to things like personalized education and pre-surgical risk monitoring, the patient knows she’s in good hands, and her provider knows that all necessary steps have been taken in advance of the procedure. 

The surgery goes well and the patient is discharged. She is then enrolled on a post-discharge care plan to help her stay informed and connected to her care team after she leaves the hospital. Once home, she receives regular check-ins and support to ensure successful at-home care management.

This is what digital care management looks like. To provide the best care possible, providers, health systems, and vendors alike all need to be focused on the entire care continuum. 

The real promise of these programs and platforms comes in the form of tangible results seen daily by healthcare institutions across the nation. With the implementation of GetWell Loop, Get Well’s proven digital care platform, for example, prominent health systems have seen:

Care management plans are not new, and they have proven beneficial. But as with so much in healthcare, the digital transformation and the evolution of consumerism in healthcare has changed the game.

A twist on traditional care management

In the early days and weeks following a patient’s discharge from the hospital, care teams must be able to monitor progress, encourage compliance, and identify if intervention is needed. 

It’s a necessary step on the care journey, but one that can spread care teams thin and detract from clinical tasks on-site. Enter care management and accompanying care plans — a long-standing practice that’s been in place for decades.

Digital care management builds on the promise of traditional telephonic care management programs to offer patients accessibility, education, and a connection to their care team. Care management programs, particularly those focused on disease management, date back to the 1980s and 1990s, well before the advent of the value-based care models with which they are typically associated. 

Traditionally, care management programs were conducted via telephone and targeted toward the highest risk patients. While such programs were successful in reducing medical costs and hospitalizations, they saw just 10% to 20% national patient engagement rates

Poor engagement was only part of the challenge of these traditional care management programs. The premise of those early programs remains a strong one — enabling care teams to communicate with patients where they are to ensure compliance with their own care plans. But Its traditional implementation was labor intensive, involved an outsized time commitment, and often drove levels of distrust about with who exactly the patients were speaking.

The mobilization of care management 

There’s a way to make it all a little bit easier, and it’s already in the hands of most of your patients. A majority —  85% — of American adults own a smartphone and 15% of U.S. adults are even “smartphone-only” internet users, without home access to a broadband connection. 

There’s never been a more apt time to reach people where they are, on the devices they already have. It’s all part of a shift in the expectations of consumers, people who have come to expect greater control, expanded transparency, and shared decision-making from every transaction, in every industry — and that includes healthcare. 

This is the era of digital care management — a technological undertaking that helps care teams engage with patients at scale through automated virtual check-ins, identifies patients in real time who need help, and allows for proactive intervention before costs and complications escalate. Digital care management represents healthcare in a patient’s pocket. It puts the care team at their fingertips. It’s necessary education delivered on the patient’s own time. 

And it’s making a difference.

While patients certainly benefit, clinicians and other staff members have a great deal to gain from the implementation of digital care plans, as well. Digital care plans offer the same benefits as traditional care management programs, including:

  • Bi-directional information exchange
  • Relationship-based care
  • Improved patient outcomes

Care coordination in the digital realm, however, offers all of this with the added benefits of being readily accessible from anywhere the patient chooses to access it, in a format and on a device with which patients are already familiar. 

The education and information sharing inherent in digital care management can be accessed outside of the office or inpatient setting, at home, or on the go. In fact, it’s this continuous access that makes digital care management so effective. 

Unlike with telephone check-ins, digital care plans offer an empathetic touchpoint at the patient’s convenience. The personalized, automated engagement helps ensure patients understand what to do, when to do it, and why, driving positive provider reviews and ratings and, most importantly, increasing adherence to patient care plans.

Remote patient monitoring offers continuous access

Offering a patient-centered approach to care that also takes into account the needs of resource-strapped care teams, digital care management helps scale support and gives care teams better communication and monitoring access to their patients. 

The feedback loop provided through a digital care plan gives patients continuous access to patient education and gives care teams continuous, seamless monitoring. By offloading monitoring tasks to automated — but still personalized — platforms designed specifically for this purpose, today’s digital care management programs help increase the coverage provided by a hospital or service line’s teams without adding to their workloads.

Digital care plans — when executed and managed effectively — prevent those in need from falling through the gaps. Because initial outreach is standardized and wide-reaching, care teams can reach, monitor, and educate all active patients, but only triage those cases that are in need of escalation. This, in turn, enables each team to reach more people and offer more and necessary care — all with the same resources.

In this way, digital care management technology can not only provide coverage for care teams, but also help scale their impact, with minimal impact on internal resources. Shifting the mode of digital care management to a technological sphere expands opportunities for today’s patients and clinicians.

The bottom line

With such positive outcomes, digital care management is more than just another option — it’s the answer that many healthcare organizations have been seeking to address very real concerns about limited resources and staffing burdens.

From increasing a patient’s engagement in their own care to improving clinical outcomes, this approach has been proven to put the patient at ease and boost adherence to care plans — and that’s a win no matter the modality in which it’s delivered.

For more on how digital care management can help standardize patient education while scaling care team resources, view our on-demand webinar, A patient-first approach to digital care management.