A lack of adherence to care programs poses a major issue for both patients and providers alike: non-adherence is proven to decrease the efficacy of treatment plans, makes it difficult to assess the clinical impact of therapy or prescriptions, and increases provider costs due to more frequent hospital readmissions or emergency department visits. Despite these recurring challenges, program adherence issues remain prominent, especially among patients with chronic conditions. For example, compliance to treatment plans among patients with type 2 diabetes is as low as 60%, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Managed Care. However, with new technology to manage engagement and triage, healthcare providers now have more access to useful tools to increase compliance among patients. Specifically, new developments in wearables offer providers a continuous, direct connection with patients that can help them better follow their treatment guidelines.

Wearables have arrived

Wearable technology is a booming industry that’s largely driven by health and wellness developments — an industry that’s expected to be worth $94 billion by 2024. Wearables innovation is happening daily, with more and more features and tools available on these products. By working alongside digital developers, healthcare providers can be quick off the draw to offer their patients new services that help improve adherence. Wearables can provide useful information about patients’ daily life outside the doctor’s office and can create a direct link between doctor and patient. For users following specific treatments, this could include medication reminders, vital sign monitoring, activity tracking, or countless other health updates, but can be crucial in helping patients stick with a treatment.

Untapped patient-generated health data

According to a recent survey, one in six consumers have and use some form of wearable device. These consumers are constantly generating their own health data that provides key insights into a patient’s activity in daily life — activity that likely has a huge impact on their health. By tapping into this information, providers can analyze data for trends in a patient’s health that can not only help shape treatment plans but also help doctors give feedback on activities that take place outside the doctor’s office. This means a doctor could tell a patient with diabetes to cut out late-night snacking, or a hypertensive patient to increase their daily activity.

Making lifestyle changes easier through engagement

A major issue in adherence is that it requires a lifestyle change in patients on new treatment plans, which can be difficult for those who are already facing other challenges in managing their health. Incorporating the management of patients’ treatment into a piece of technology that travels with them and may already be a part of their lifestyle allows patients to adapt to treatment plans in a way that fits with patients’ day-to-day lives. By integrating health management into a wearable, providers help engage patients in their own health, which can ease the transition into a new lifestyle.

A digital link to adherence

Although wearables are often targeted at healthy individuals focused on preventive health and wellness, there’s a large opportunity to use wearables to connect providers to patients with chronic illnesses. If a smartwatch can connect a patient easily with his or her physician and with useful health tips, that patient will be more mindful and more connected to their own health, which can lead to improved compliance.

Improving adherence, improving health outcomes

Though healthcare as a whole has rapidly evolved over just the few past decades, adherence has long been an issue for patients with chronic conditions, meaning creative solutions are necessary in order to help make treatments more effective and improve patient outcomes. Wearables, when incorporated into an existing treatment plan or used as a form of preventive care, offer a unique opportunity for patients to transition more easily into a new, healthier lifestyle and be in control of their health. For providers, this means healthier patients, leading to better outcomes from treatment and lower costs. With new health technology constantly developing, it’s crucial for providers to take advantage of the opportunities these tools provide to improve patient health in the long run.

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