Non-communicable diseases (NCD) are the leading cause of ever-increasing global deaths. These are mostly lifestyle-based such as diabetes 2, some cancers and cardio vascular diseases among others. In South Africa, there is a further burden of disease if communicable diseases such as HIV and TB and those related to maternal and child-health and violence are added to the equation.
The population healthcare pyramid shows that 10% of patients consume more than half the healthcare spend. However, the existing primary healthcare system does not adequately allow for the preventative and proactive management of patients with these diseases. Patient-care outcomes are not sufficiently monitored in a primary care environment. This gives rise to healthcare costs escalating as a result of avoidable and emergency hospital admissions. The call for industry intervention and collaboration between different healthcare role players, such as doctors and nurses, medical aid schemes, and patients, is key.
Over the past two years, Healthbridge and the Intercare Group have been delivering ‘disease management programmes’ in a number of Intercare Centres for Lifestyle Management. These pilots provide quality, cost effective primary care that improves patient health outcomes.
Intercare has made it convenient for patients to access a ‘medical home’ in which all their needs and concerns are catered for via a multi-disciplinary team of doctors and nurses. Most importantly, patients are urged to take responsibility for their own health as well as adhering to their treatment plans.
The co-ordination required to manage a number of patients with one or more chronic conditions is a complex task, because patients belong to different medical schemes requiring different treatment guidelines, are at different stages of their programme, and at different levels of adherence.
Healthbridge’s technology platform helps to addresses this complexity and make it simpler for the doctor and nurse team to engage with their patients on the relevant programmes. The patient’s progress is managed and monitored and the key clinical metrics are recorded and tracked on the system. Patients are also reminded pro-actively for follow-up appointments.
Paul Hendey, executive for strategic relationships at Healthbridge adds that patient engagement is imperative. “It’s about making it easy for the healthcare providers to support their patients, to achieve positive health outcomes. The pilots are showing positive results in patient engagement. Seven-out-of-ten patients who enrolled on the diabetic programmes have completed their HBA1c (haemoglobin A1c) diagnostic test – which is an important test to measure how well or poorly they are managing their diabetes. The results are significantly higher than those in a non-facilitated environment and are on par with some of the best pilot programmes. This indicates that this level of patient engagement is repeatable for new patients on additional schemes that participate in these ‘pilots’.
Over 800 patients are currently active on the programmes, from four medical schemes, with most patients having actively engaged with their Intercare doctor and nurse,” he says.
“Although we don’t have all the answers yet, we are able to test and learn relatively quickly. We are encouraged by the learning process and the high level of repeatability. The journey has just started. The collaboration with all the healthcare industry players undoubtedly produces better outcomes,” says Hendey.