Continuous care, empowering patients

An impact of COVID-19 is delayed care. How can we help encourage patients to continue seeking treatment? How do we continue monitoring their health?

Timeliness is a huge factor in ensuring patient safety which became a huge issue early on in the pandemic when the immediate response was to lockdown communities including chronic patients who otherwise needed continuous monitoring and care.

According to a worldwide survey conducted by the European Society of Cardiology, the number of heart attack patients who sought hospital care during COVID-19 dropped by more than 50% which probably was why there was a 28% increase in life-threatening complications due to heart attack. Oncology centres around the world also reported reduced clinical activity at the peak of the pandemic, according to new studies discussed at the ESMO Virtual Congress 2020.

Anurag Bhargava, Area Marketing Director (Diagnostics), APAC, Abbott

What is needed is enhancing awareness in patients, says Anurag Bhargava, Abbott’s Area Marketing Director (Diagnostics) in APAC, which will encourage them to seek timely care and be open to other means.

Communicating the importance of timely care

It is a challenging time for hospitals, yet, we have seen them adapt so quickly and work with stakeholders to continue navigating this new normal. “It is admirable how hospitals are able to re-organise care in a crisis like this when the usual scenario-planning isn’t at all feasible,” acknowledges Bhargava.

Hospitals are reviewing their workflows to optimise throughput and institute safety measures within their buildings, so patients, as well as healthcare workers, feel safe. While it may seem a small step, it is important to instil confidence and minimise patients’ concerns in coming to the hospital to seek treatment.

What needs to happen, Bhargava suggests, is to improve communication with patients, their families, and caregivers about the new safety measures, protocols, and expectations. At the same time, hospitals could explore more ways to create awareness among patients and their families on the importance of timely care.

Awareness campaigns about the risks of delayed treatment prove effective in encouraging patients to seek care even with the ongoing pandemic. Abbott continues to do such campaigns and work with laboratories and hospitals across different countries such as with Australia’s Continuity of Care Collaboration.

Engaging like-minded institutions to amplify this message can make a difference, Bhargava believes. “The Australian experience, for instance, is one where we see the power of the collective; over 35 peak bodies, industry, and healthcare organisations have come together to stress the importance for people to continue with monitoring their health status and conditions, to ensure that optimal long-term health outcomes are achieved.”

Furthermore, health monitoring is no longer circumscribed within hospitals. Care delivery is now taken to patients’ homes, and this, too, can prevent delayed care.

Continuing care in patients’ homes

Another trend we see during the pandemic is the unprecedented rise in self-care and health awareness among patients. The interest in being transparent and taking control of their health has surged, especially with the accelerated technology adoption.

“The speed at which technology is evolving; the continuing investments in this area and the newer demands following the pandemic will make it a new normal for the industry,” Bhargava outlines. And this is great news for healthcare as remote devices can help with real-time monitoring and care.

Technologies for remote monitoring allow patients and doctors to stay connected despite the distance. We have seen this work on teleconsultations and cloud-based data, which the industry has adopted since the pandemic.

Still, we find reluctance from some patients on the use of these technologies. Fortunately, advancements in design and engineering technology have made it easy for consumers to use these devices.

Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre, for example, offers people living with diabetes an easy and convenient option to regularly monitor their glucose levels, without the hassle of painful finger pricks. Online educational tools, clinical studies, and data about the technology also help assuage concerns related to how the device actually performs.

Understandably, patients, their families, and caregivers would want to understand how a remote monitoring device fits into their healthcare needs. Abbott realises this and as a manufacturer of health technologies, it endorses keeping the system simple. “It is not just about providing more and more information,” highlights Bhargava, “but the beauty is in providing actionable personal data real-time and in real-world situations.”

About Abbott

Abbott is a global healthcare leader that helps people live more fully at all stages of life. Our portfolio of life-changing technologies spans the spectrum of healthcare, with leading businesses and products in diagnostics, medical devices, nutritionals and branded generic medicines. Our 107,000 colleagues serve people in more than 160 countries.