Telehealth and Chronic Disease Management


“Chronic diseases account for seven out of ten deaths in the United States, and consume 75 cents of every dollar spent on healthcare,” reports Kenneth E. Thorpe in his 2009 paper Chronic disease management and prevention in the US: The missing links in health care reform. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. In fact, in 2010, seven of the top 10 causes of death were chronic diseases, with two of these – heart disease and cancer—together accounting for almost half of all deaths. Today, one of four adults suffers from one or more chronic conditions. This is problematic not only for the people who have the condition – in terms of their health and quality of life – but also the people they are close to like their families and friends.

Dealing with chronic disease is difficult on a personal level but also economically. It causes absenteeism and poor work performance, overall reducing an individual’s productivity. Not to mention the expense. An overwhelming 75% of money in the healthcare industry is in fact spent on the treatment of chronic diseases. Fortunately, as technology advances, people are finding new ways to incorporate these innovations into patient care.

The development of telehealth has provided a way to facilitate patient-doctor interaction and makes it easier for physicians to monitor and communicate with chronic care patients all while reducing costs. Hurdles such as time, geographic location, and mobility can be circumvented with the use of technology.

The study Spanning Boundaries into Remote Communities: An Exploration of Experiences with Telehealth Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs in Rural Northern Ontario, Canada, published in the December 2013 issue of Telemedicine and e-Health found that telehealth chronic disease self-management programs yielded positive results, with participants in geographically isolated communities reaping the benefits. According to the study, the participants in the program showed “improvements in self-efficacy, health status, and health behaviors…”

The technology isn’t perfect yet and certainly there is more than enough room for improvement. However, the strides being made towards pushing for further advancement and integration are nothing to scoff at either.