By Subhro Mallik, SVP and head of life sciences business unit, Infosys
One in five Americans suffers from chronic pain. Apart from disrupting lives, chronic pain costs the U.S. about $300 billion in productivity every year. Treatment usually involves different types of interventions, such as medication, exercise therapy, cognitive behavioral treatment etc., and the participation of both patients and their healthcare providers. Unfortunately, a highly inadequate pain management infrastructure, which has fewer than 6,000 physicians for treating 50 million patients, is unable to give patients the one-on-one attention they need.
Because they are not supervised, many patients fail to keep up with the prescribed exercise regimen, which happens to be all-important for rehabilitating chronic pain. But now, there is a real possibility for care givers to use digital interventions to remotely monitor and engage with patients to improve compliance as well as treatment outcomes.
Several digital solutions, including mobile apps, sensors, digital medical devices, fitness trackers and wearables, play a role in chronic pain therapy. What’s more, they can be applied across lines of treatment to achieve different purposes – from improving medication adherence to enabling telerehabilitation. A major benefit of digital intervention is that it allows providers to design personalized treatment plans in collaboration with patients, which has been linked to improvement in self-care. Last but not least, these tools help pain management physicians and care givers stay connected to their patients. Here are some scenarios:
Connect with patients to motivate and engage
Providers can deploy a digital platform to gather data from patients’ mobile apps, fitness trackers, and devices to track exercise performance; this insight tells them if they need to personally intervene with feedback or a revised program. The platform itself can also act as a virtual coach, gamifying the exercise routine, supervising patients and motivating them to do better.
Studies show that better engagement makes a significant impact on treatment outcomes. When patients suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain were given a combination of education, sensor-guided exercise therapy, and one-on-one remote health coaching over a twelve-week-long program, they displayed high engagement and also reported reduction in pain.