How can Medical Affairs leaders empower people facing chronic health conditions to actively manage their health?
Consider how your Medical Affairs teams can support the following two patient engagement strategies:
1 – Provide Actionable Tips for At-Home Care
During Covid, many people turned to digital resources and online tools for help managing their health conditions. We expect this new habit to stick and see robust opportunities for building on new approaches that have proved effective. For example, the CDC reports a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine, from 43% of health centers reporting the use of the telemedicine in 2019 to 95% using telemedicine during the pandemic.
Here at MyHealthTeams, we also see patients making use of online support communities both for connection and for health information and advice. One great example is the virtual pulmonary rehab offered to members of MyCOPDTeam, a social network for people diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The pandemic brought an abrupt halt to the pulmonary rehab sessions many people depend on, so we quickly teamed with the Home Rehabilitation Network, led by Alexander Grichuhin, to produce four videos that guide MyCOPDTeam members through techniques and tips they can use to strengthen breathing and maintain health at home. One example: a tutorial on pursed-lip breathing, which gently pressurizes the lungs and thus delivers more oxygen in any given breath.
The impact has been remarkable. When we surveyed members 30 days after the videos went live, we were thrilled to find that 92% of those who had seen the videos had tried the techniques – with 48% reporting they had done so more than 10 times.
Then 90 days after the videos went live, we conducted a follow-up survey among a subset of the original respondents and found that 79% of them continued using the techniques regularly, which were associated with improvements in six key quality of life measures.
82% reported feeling more confident leaving their house and saw improvement in their ability to do household activities. Three quarters had more energy. 71% saw improvements in shortness of breath. 62% were more comfortable walking for 6 minutes on a flat surface. More than half were better able to climb stairs or a hill. This kind of impact is so valuable, enabling people to more effectively, comfortably, and safely do the things they want every day, at work and at home, for themselves and for their families.
Delivering health-promoting advice within the support system of an online community makes it easy for patients to adopt positive new habits that are realistic within the constraints of their daily lives – an essential step in helping to counteract the worsening symptoms of disease they have experienced over the past year. Medical Affairs leaders have the opportunity to accelerate this strategy, promoting the adoption of this virtual rehab approach in other therapeutic areas.
2 – Provide Condition-Specific Advice from Trusted Scientific Sources
36% of people with chronic conditions — the very conditions that put them at greater risk of severe cases of Covid — remain hesitant about, or downright resistant to, getting the COVID-19 vaccine. According to an ongoing study by Carnegie Melon University, this rate of vaccine hesitancy in the chronically ill population is more than half-again the rate of 23% found in the general population. Many people with chronic conditions report holding out because they want to hear directly from a doctor specializing in their disease that it is ok to get the vaccine. General guidelines from their clinic or from the CDC are not enough.
This presents a specific opportunity for Medical Affairs leadership, either in communicating this need for trusted guidance to healthcare providers or directly to patients, themselves.