Healthcare Innovation

4 Factors That Make Chronic Conditions a Better Experience


When it comes to managing a chronic condition, experience drives everything. This is one of the hallmark messages of Glen Tullman’s upcoming book, On Our Terms: Empowering the New Intelligent Connected Health Consumer. In a call for fundamental healthcare innovation, Tullman presents the solution to treating the chronic condition epidemic. To best treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, and other chronic conditions, we must empower those affected by them to manage their health on their terms. The best way to achieve this aim is to give patients (which Tullman refers to as Intelligent Connected Health Consumers), easy-to-use tools and information to create an experience most appropriate for their needs.

This experience requires equipping consumers with smart, self-diagnostic technology that delivers information meeting four fundamental requirements:

#1: Personalized

Did you know that people with chronic conditions (such as diabetes) respond differently to therapy based on their genetic makeup? Personalized information ensures that people receive information that best reflects their unique identifiers such as age, gender, and ethnicity. Personalized information naturally increases the level of engagement and value people perceive from the information. For chronic conditions, this is especially important because lifestyle behaviors account for the greatest determinant of their clinical outcomes. Because chronic conditions affect people differently based on their unique psychological and physiological makeup, we can no longer rely on solutions that are based on generic information. Tullman calls for leveraging smart technology that delivers personalized information in real-time, such as smart glucometers (used for measuring blood sugar). Using this technology, people receive information about their unique health status in real time, allowing them to make better decisions in the moment. Over time, these small changes will ideally lead to healthier habits and a chance to achieve optimal health.

#2: Context-aware

Similar to personalized information, people also need access to information that accounts for unique health circumstances. For instance, people with diabetes may face unique consequences when their blood sugar falls within abnormal thresholds. Without taking corrective and immediate action, these individuals can experience serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries. Tullman calls for using self-diagnostic technology to send instructions that account for these unique circumstances and provide people with the appropriate steps to return their health to a normal state. In other words, people receive information that accounts for their current health state and recommends actions that can be taken in the current moment. For example, if there are sudden changes in diet, surroundings, or stress levels, those things should be taken into context when interpreting health data.

#3: Simple

Dealing with a chronic condition is a long-term challenge that can easily overwhelm the person affected by it. The simpler the process of managing one’s condition, the less disruptive it becomes, and the more the patient can focus on quality of life, rather than the disease.

#4: Actionable

When dealing with a chronic condition, people don’t always understand the steps needed to feel better. In fact, living with a chronic condition is a tentative state where the path to better health is ambiguous and hard to find. This is why people need clear and direct instructions for taking control of their health. For people with diabetes, this may mean directions for exercise and diet that provide measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented instructions. The more actionable the information, the more consumers can link better behaviors with better health outcomes. This in turn increases motivation, satisfaction, and their sense of empowerment.

Personalized, context-aware, simple, and actionable information provide the formula for achieving true, sustainable, and positive behavior change. And changing behavior represents the most sustainable, viable, inexpensive, and impactful solution in treating chronic conditions.

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