How digital tools are helping to personalize your health care

What if the doctor who’s helping you manage your diabetes could monitor exactly how your next lunch affects your glucose readings?

Thanks to technology that helps patients log real-time vital signs, that scenario and others like it are already happening — and they’re helping to create more personalized health care.

“When you have continuous real-life feedback, you can start to pinpoint decisions being made throughout the day that positively or negatively affect your health,” said Craig Kurtzweil, vice president for advanced analytics at UnitedHealthcare. “It’s data-driven, personalized care where the solution may be small tweaks customized to your situation versus sweeping, one-size-fits-all change.”

Craig said care providers are welcoming these new insights, citing a report that reveals nearly 8 in 10 of them are choosing to use digital health tools on their own accord.

“A trusted relationship between doctor and patient remains paramount to a positive health care experience,” Craig said. “Strengthening that relationship typically starts with more personalized interactions — and technology is helping make them happen.”

Craig outlines three broad innovations that are proving especially valuable:

1. Daily living data

As the opening example illustrates, new tools are giving patients and their doctors access to real-time data that helps measure medical care and identify potential lifestyle modifications. For example, a continuous glucose monitor paired with an activity tracker may help a person with type 2 diabetes see how food, movement and sleep all affect their body. This analysis can happen without more traditional diabetes management tactics like finger-pricking for blood sugar readings.

Similar in-the-moment data measurements can help identify a person who may benefit from mental health care. The person can use an app to record information about their moods and overall mental well-being. A health care provider can then review the results to help decide whether there’s a need for mental health services.

2. In-appointment provider tools:

Physicians can now access a patient’s health coverage details at the precise moment they need it — while they’re still with the person and as future care is being determined. Thanks to resources that integrate with electronic medical records, doctors can view a patient’s specific coverage, precise prescription costs and any clinically appropriate alternative treatment options that may be less costly for the person. Information about network care providers, quality ratings and prior authorization requirements may also be available.

Moving forward, these tools have the potential to flag issues and highlight preferred treatments. The physician will still make choices about care, but they may be supported by helpful alerts and information to help make more data-driven decisions.

3. Artificial intelligence and computer learning:

Computers are now able to analyze large volumes of information — far more than any human — to detect patterns and come up with possible solutions to problems. The process is called artificial intelligence or AI, and it’s helping doctors enhance their decision-making.

Today, algorithms can match a patient at a certain point in their care journey to data from previous patients in similar situations. AI insights enable doctors to compare outcomes among people who took different paths to determine how they may want to move forward with their patients.

“The thread that runs through all these examples is data, and there’s more of it available than ever before,” Craig said. “But it’s only useful if we can extract insights from it. Through various resources, we can put valuable data in the hands of somebody who’s trusted by the patient — their primary doctor — at important moments. It can be powerful for improving individual patient care.”

 Learn more about digital resources that are personalizing health care.

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