Chronic Disease Management: The Changing Landscape of Primary Care

Since several years the health care requirement of the US population has undergone a major shift. From predominantly care requirement for acute and episodic diseases it has been turned to care for chronic illness for majority of population. As per latest reports, 7 out of 10 leading causes of death belong to chronic diseases now. More than a whopping 145 million people in the country which amounts to almost fifty percent of the population, suffer from one or more than one chronic conditions. Lastly, chronic conditions account for the biggest share of healthcare dollar spending now. Over the next two decades, around 11,000 people on a daily basis will turn 65 and this increasing rate of elderly population will result in a steady rise in chronic care requirement.

Most evidences suggest that the effectiveness of healthcare system depends primarily on addressing chronic diseases and this depends to a great extent on the quality of primary care. Almost all healthcare data shows that healthcare systems equipped with robust primary care offer much better quality care at a surprisingly lower cost. Primary care in more than one way offers a strong foundation for providing best care for chronic illnesses.

Chronic disease definition

Chronic disease can be defined as a condition of ill-health lasting for long time which requires day to day controlling mechanism rather than a conclusive cure. There are obviously other definitions that consider chronic diseases as conditions expected to last for more than a year. Some of the common examples of chronic diseases include heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, chronic respiratory disorders, psychological disorders, vision impairment, hearing impairment and oral diseases. Typically, chronic conditions may affect people irrespective of ages but the principal causes of chronic diseases may vary as per the age groups.

Chronic disease impact

Chronic diseases often are the main reasons of morbidity and functional limitations of organs in people. It has been observed that one fourth of people suffering from chronic conditions also have one or more than one limitations in their daily activities. Difficulty in walking or making movement or difficulty in speaking or indulging in regular activities, all these can be considered as impacts of chronic conditions in many people. Depression is another common chronic illness making at least 30% of stroke patients suffer. Chronic diseases besides impacting the death and disability also accounts for 84% of total spending on healthcare, nearly 99% of spending in Medicare and around 80% of spending for Medicaid.

Chronic disease management definition

The ineffectiveness of traditional healthcare methods in addressing the increasing challenge chronic disease ultimately paved the way for a new approach in tackling the chronic conditions. This new approach for providing care to chronic sufferers necessitates a new proactive model of chronic disease management. Chronic disease management is proactive, organized collaborative and evidence based healthcare to optimize patient care.

Chronic disease management challenges

Chronic disease management challenges involve redesigning the healthcare delivery system to address the emerging needs of patient care. The redesigning involves more collaboration among various disciplines, proactive addressing of chronic conditions and addressing the growing complexity of care needs. There are many other critical issues corresponding to chronic disease management that include making patients aware of the complexities, monitoring of patient condition and tracking the care outcome.

Obviously, these challenges are irrevocably associated with exploring new opportunities for chronic care management. The challenges in chronic care management ( in today’s scenario involve coordination of multiple specialties and care units. In this context primary care facilities with their typical ‘healthcare next door’ approach can play a vital role in alleviating the care standard and adding value to life and healthcare system as a whole.

For some years the increasing voice of criticism and dissent over the alleged fragmented, inefficient, and unaffordable nature of US healthcare has been the cause of number of debates. Addressing the requirement of the population and making provision for quality care for people suffering from chronic diseases once again is in focus and demands to make these at the very forefront of healthcare reformation is high. An effective chronic disease management needs a fundamental and deep rooted change in the healthcare system rather than just addition of new features to an unchanged system.