Patients with chronic illnesses face real challenges in managing pain every day. Especially when the effects of a chronic condition are paired with the natural challenges of aging, patients can find themselves overwhelmed in managing their own care. Fortunately, telephone triage services serve as a unique and powerful resource for pain management in those who need chronic care.
The Need for Chronic Care in the United States
Chronic diseases and conditions are rampant in the United States. At the time of writing, three in four Americans over the age of 65 have at least two chronic health conditions, and under current conditions, the percentage of those who need chronic care will only continue to grow. These are some of the most common chronic conditions Americans face today:
- Arthritis—Arthritis describes the swelling and tenderness of the joints. Joint pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms. Osteoarthritis causes cartilage to break down, and rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease attacking the joint lining.
- Asthma—Asthma is a condition characterized by the narrowing of the airways and increased mucus production. It ranges from minor to severe.
- COPD—Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease describes a group of diseases resulting in airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. COPD conditions include emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Hypertension—Colloquially referred to as high blood pressure, hypertension describes blood pressure levels of 130/80 mm Hg or higher. It is common for hypertension to lead to other conditions, including heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
- Stroke—Stroke is caused by abnormal blood levels in the brain, either by a blockage to sections of the brain or a burst brain blood vessel. The result is regional brain damage, often leading to long-term disability or death.
- CHF—Congestive heart failure reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood at normal volumes. This causes blood and fluids to collect in the lungs and legs.
- Diabetes—Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce sufficient levels of insulin (type 1 diabetes) or when the body cannot effectively metabolize the insulin it creates (type 2 diabetes).
The Challenges of Chronic Care Management
Chronic care management describes facilitating medical care between visits to the physician for patients with multiple chronic conditions. It also includes coordinating care between the attending physician and third-party care providers. Chronic care management is very beneficial for helping patients adhere to their medical care plan, follow their medication regimen, and keep doctor appointments. It can also proactively identify medical concerns before they become disastrous.
The greatest challenge surrounding chronic care management is the consistency with which it needs to be administered. Chronic pain does not work on a schedule, and coordination outside of peak business hours can be logistically difficult. Fortunately, technology is helping to mitigate some of these challenges.
Digital health technologies are quickly becoming the most effective solution to empower effective self-management in those who need chronic care. Even in the face of multiple chronic conditions, digital health technologies such as telehealth and telephone triage services are allowing patients to better facilitate their own chronic care management. The science is not perfect, especially as the complexity of multiple chronic condition (multimorbidity) management meets the natural changes that are integral to the normal aging process, but a combined effort of digital self-management and human support is empowering those with chronic care needs across the country.
Third-Party Telephone Triage for Patients Who Need Chronic Care
Third-party triage solutions are proving to be an effective resource for managing chronic conditions. The benefits to medical practices and to patients who need chronic care are abundant. Here we focus on only three.
24/7 Access to Healthcare Professionals
As mentioned above, chronic symptoms do not follow a 9–5 Monday through Friday schedule. Patients who need chronic care often need it outside of normal business hours, and when symptoms arise, a professional ear is required. Dedicated telephone triage services are open 24/7, and the attending nurses are medically qualified to handle the chronic challenges that arise.
Such unlimited access is a relief whether the event seems minor or urgent. Telephone triage nurses are available to assist regardless of the time of day or day of the week, and this is also relieving for medical facilities.
In addition to access at any time of day, third-party triage services are available for extended periods of time. Research indicates that patients who need chronic care do not usually need bursts of medical advice. They need consistent and prolonged care, usually within their own home. A third-party triage service like CareXM can help patients with chronic conditions find the care they need.
When consulting specialists and a variety of healthcare professionals, communication is key. In fact, unifying communication can be one of the most challenging aspects of chronic care management. Communication and secure documentation between in-person physicians and asynchronous non-face-to-face consultation means is made simpler by taking advantage of a third-party triage service. Innovations such as audio/video communication technologies and secure messaging are included in care programs.