How apps can help manage chronic diseases

Technology—in the form of digital medicine—is helping patients with chronic disease to take better care of themselves. Approximately one-half of all adults suffer from one or more chronic diseases, which account for 7 of 10 deaths and 86% of U.S. health-care costs.

Technology—in the form of digital medicine—is helping patients with chronic disease to take better care of themselves. Approximately one-half of all adults suffer from one or more chronic diseases, which account for 7 of 10 deaths and 86% of U.S. health-care costs. People often become overwhelmed by the demands of their daily regimens, slip back into poor health habits, and fail to take their medications correctly. New studies show that the emerging field of digital medicine—a combination of remote monitoring, behavior modification, and personalized intervention overseen by the patients' own doctors—can improve outcomes in some of the most costly and tough-to-manage categories such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. As a result, a growing number of hospitals and health systems are adopting digital programs that have been studied in clinical trials and can be delivered on a broad scale at low cost with the use of smartphones, wireless devices, and sensors. In addition to raising patients' confidence that they can manage their health—and providing some hand-holding and nudging when they do not—experts say the innovations allow doctors to gather data about patient behavior and symptoms, and intervene when patients are not following their regimens or have a flare-up in their disease.