How digital symptom tracking is remaking medicine for the better

Today, we live in an era defined by unprecedented technological advancements that have left no sector untouched, healthcare included. We know by now that digital health services are highly beneficial, with certain scenarios even having life-saving potential. These services have made healthcare services accessible to people in remote areas like never before. Further, digital health services have proven to be cost-effective and more convenient for all the stakeholders by limiting the number of in-person visits to only unavoidable ones.

As part of these digital changes, a technological innovation called digital symptom tracking is reshaping our approach to medical care. This concept brings together patients and healthcare workers in an effort to track, analyse and understand the vitals and symptoms of patients. The exercise could be part of a long-term treatment or in between appointments.

Let us understand digital symptom tracking a little more.

Decoding digital symptom tracking

Digital symptom tracking apps monitor and record the symptoms of patients in real time. These apps record information automatically or through patient responses. It helps healthcare providers pick up specific developing patterns, understand the effectiveness of treatment lines and make informed decisions. For example, if a patient with a chronic heart disease or asthma develops shortness of breath that warrants medical attention, the healthcare providers can intervene at the right time. Often, people fail to read the symptoms that can lead to fatal events, making it too late to get medical help. However, the healthcare providers monitoring the symptoms can make timely treatment decisions, backed by relevant data, that may very well prove to be life-saving.

Clearly digital healthcare solutions can revolutionise disease diagnosis, detection and risk management. It can even slow down or prevent the onset of diseases by constant monitoring and early interventions. Such interventions can have a significant impact on certain life-threatening events like heart attacks and strokes.

Many healthcare organisations are leveraging the benefits of digital healthcare during the treatment of cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, stroke, heart issues and many more conditions. Patients usually undergo long-term treatment for such diseases and conditions. Often, the symptoms or side effects can be frightening and cause anxiety or trigger false alarms. On the other hand, not realising the seriousness of a symptom at the right time can prove to be disastrous too.

Let us have a look at some specific use cases where digital symptom tracking is making effective inroads.

Cancer treatment

Chemotherapy can have various side effects that frighten people and increase anxiety. A study by researchers at the University of Strathclyde found that remote digital symptom tracking improved the quality of life of chemotherapy patients while reducing their anxiety. Monitored patients were found to have more confidence and were able to stay engaged throughout their care.

This technology educates patients about their symptoms and treatment choices. Certain digital symptom tracking apps aid the cancer management journey of patients and their caregivers. These apps also provide actionable dashboards with reminders, links to informational sources and even capture details that can aid disability benefit claims.

Mental health

Another area where digital symptom tracking can help enhance outcomes significantly is mental healthcare. Some mental health conditions can trigger physical symptoms such as breathlessness during panic attacks, fluctuating blood pressure, etc. Wearable devices available today can track such parameters. Apps designed to help mental health patients record their conditions through daily questionnaires. Patients can even record voice samples, which undergo speech pattern analysis to aid healthcare providers in evaluating their emotional state. These apps help record behaviours, mood changes, habits and other attributes, and study patterns for improved treatment plans and outcomes.

Menstrual health tracking

Digital symptom-tracking apps help women record their menstrual symptoms to facilitate better menstrual health conversations with healthcare providers. These apps capture various parameters along with qualitative descriptions of symptoms for possible early diagnosis of issues such as endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). They can also help women time intercourse to avoid or facilitate conception.

Apart from the above scenarios, digital symptom tracking technology can monitor patients to understand the impact of new therapies. Sometimes, changed medications can cause mental and physical health issues. Acoustic AI is another area where the concept of digital symptom tracking is making fast inroads. The apps listen to body sounds to determine any possible health issues. This concept is prominently used to monitor coughs to understand disease-specific patterns to diagnose and treat patients with tuberculosis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), etc. It can also enhance public health surveillance by detecting new infectious traits before they spread.

How do patients benefit?

Timely and life-saving help and improved treatment outcomes are the topmost benefits for patients. It also gives patients greater control over their treatment by helping them understand their symptoms and associated patterns. In chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, doctors can discuss the patterns with patients to help them understand their condition and make lifestyle changes, remove triggers, etc. Patients feel empowered when they make data-driven treatment choices.

How can Infosys BPM help?

Infosys BPM’s healthcare solutions are designed to transform operating models, improve business performance and standardise processes while significantly reducing costs. Our profound domain expertise helps us meticulously craft business process outsourcing healthcare services that empower the industry’s stakeholders to tackle the healthcare challenges of tomorrow proactively.

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