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Five trends shaping healthcare: Self-care condition management

Published: 07/12/2021

With the management of chronic conditions shifting onto patients, we sat down with Dr Anushka Patchava, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Vitality, to hear about how the healthcare landscape is evolving.

We live in a world forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hard-hitting news headlines about health-related issues are unavoidable. Individuals are taking greater responsibility for their own physical and mental wellbeing at a time when access to care is limited1. There’s also a heightened need for credible, evidence-based resources at a time when misinformation is widely available online.

“People are more health aware than ever. We’re seeing more people using the Vitality GP service to find out about health issues. This demand is not only being driven by primary care – there is a real thirst for education too. More and more, we’re seeing responsibility for the management of chronic conditions shifting onto individuals.”

- Dr Anushka Patchava, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Vitality
With healthcare delivery evolving and innovative digital tools emerging to cater for demand, here are five key trends currently driving changing patient behaviour.

1. People increasingly want to take ownership of their health

With health and wellbeing in the spotlight like never before, individuals are seeking out greater understanding of clinical knowledge for themselves. Unsurprisingly ‘coronavirus’ was the most searched Google term in 20202, but mental health-related words like ‘stress’, ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ are also proving popular3. “People are more exposed to health issues in the news and we’re seeing them searching for it online,” says Dr Patchava. This is being reflected by individuals taking increasing interest in the self-management of conditions, she points out.

2. There is a real need for credible, evidence-based health information

Heightened levels of curiosity are driving the need for health guidance that can be trusted. “We understand there is a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of this is being shared online,” Dr Patchava points out. “This means making established credible evidence-based education available is key.” As an example, she points to services such as The Sound Doctor, which provides video courses on common conditions such as diabetes, dementia and back pain, as well as support for weight management, mental health and improving sleep quality. The same applies for Zemedy, personalised digital coaching based on behavioural therapy for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), she adds.

3. Chronic conditions management is shifting onto the individual

As well as information, people are also looking to monitor and self-manage chronic conditions themselves using digital therapeutic platforms, such as mhealth. In part driven by limited access to care during the pandemic, Dr Patchava is also seeing people become increasingly at ease using home healthcare devices which connect with smart phones. Made by the likes of Beurer, these might include high-end thermometers, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and nebulisers. Or medical-grade electrocardiogram (ECG) devices, such as the one developed by KardiaMobile. “We are seeing a shift in psychology, with patients realising they can look after themselves better by understanding the data behind their health.”

4. Pandemic continues to drive demand for mental health support

As we explored in a recent article, the COVID-19 crisis has massively impacted the nation’s mental health and the way it is supported. As lockdown eased earlier this year, many employees had to return to workplaces or public spaces. As Dr Patchava acknowledges, this has contributed to anxiety disorders, panic attacks and adjustment disorders4. “We’re seeing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also take its toll as the winter nights draw in,” she adds. “It might be natural for people to feel they have lost almost two years of their life. This is also causing depression for some.” Adding this to the ongoing uncertainty around the virus, Dr Patchava’s view is that increasing demand for digital mental health support, such as My Online Therapy, will only continue.

5. People not accessing healthcare will lead to worse outcomes

Another concern for Dr Patchava is the long-term impact of delayed treatment and diagnosis. “Fear still exists around visiting doctors in a face-to-face setting and this is leading some people to delay seeking care,” she warns. Not only will this lead to poorer health outcomes later down the line, health insurers and intermediaries will inevitably see this reflected within the claims experience of clients. Alongside a proactive approach to prevention, improving access to digital tools and better education will therefore be crucial, Dr Patchava concludes.

We recently launched a range of self-care health tools offering a range of discounts to help your clients manage or prevent symptoms of common conditions. Find out more.

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