Patients want to get better. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t seek out doctors. And yet patients are often their own worst enemy. The challenge of patient compliance is as old as medicine, and while the medical system has improved dramatically, getting patients to follow their doctor’s orders presents a constant struggle.
Patient adherence issues stem from a variety of sources, from bad communication on the doctor’s part to not understanding the severity of their condition. To combat patients not following their health plan, medical professionals have come up with a variety of solutions utilizing the latest technology and best practices. It’s an exciting time for the science of wellness–a time when age-old problems are finally receiving solutions that work.
Let’s take a look at how sleep specialists have improved patient compliance in ways never thought possible. Sleep specialists have faced a perfect storm of factors that contribute to patient non-compliance, but thanks to smart applications of technology, somnologists are helping patients get a better night’s sleep more effectively.
While everyone wants a good night’s sleep, few truly understand the critical role that rest plays in our overall health. Because of this, sleep patients often minimize the severity of their issues. After all, trouble sleeping is not like a broken bone. You might not be aware of a problem until more troubling issues appear, and even then, patients can easily attribute those problems to other reasons. It’s hard to follow a treatment plan if you don’t believe your problem is that bad.
There are a few factors helping sleep specialists. The first: people are beginning to understand the importance of sleep more and more. And while plenty of us don’t always get the sleep we need, we at least are beginning to understand why we need to catch more Zs. The second, however, is what gets us excited. Thanks to technology, sleep specialists no longer have to rely on self-reported information, and instead can access objective data to both create and monitor a patient’s health plan and adherence.
Despite a patient’s desire to get better, self-reported information has always been a dubious source of information. For instance, sometimes patients will record the requested information far after the fact, which increases the chances of inaccurate information. Other times, patients will just completely forget.
Sleep specialists are finding ways around this problem, however. Wearables and other sleep tracking devices can monitor patients as they sleep, providing objective data for specialists to pore over. This information removes forgetfulness from the equation and can also track other details that patients might not realize are important.
Compliance also relies heavily on communication, and the digital revolution has greatly improved the way we communicate. While it has taken the medical community a bit longer to embrace these changes, the results have greatly helped patients follow their treatment plan. For instance, sending notifications and reminders to patients can increase compliance. Even basic communication improvements make it easy for patients to schedule appointments and for physicians to plan follow-ups.
Take sleep apnea. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine. However, physicians found that patients do not always use their CPAP machine as frequently as they should. A simple intervention program in the form of an email, message through a medical portal or even a push notification could increase patient compliance.
For medications, advances in technology have produced smart bottles. This new innovation tracks whether or not patients have already taken a medication or if they missed a dose. Physicians can then alert patients of their error and help them stay on track.
Why Compliance Matters
Patient compliance isn’t just about getting patients healthier faster. There are a number of reasons why everyone that has anything to do with the healthcare industry should care about compliance.
First and foremost, when patients follow a physician’s treatment plan and get better, they put more faith in the medical system. They are also more likely to be satisfied with their treatment and care. Both factors increase their willingness to see doctors about other health issues, which can increase patient visits and improve a patient’s overall health. Additionally, compliance also decreases the rate of readmission, which can drive the costs down for medical care.
Investing in ways to improve compliance is just that: an investment. Medical groups can reap financial rewards as well as build patient trust, and patients can enjoy better health faster. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!