In an ever increasing mobile age, patient adherence is vital to improving treatment outcomes

Marijn Kortekaas, @physitrack_au

One of the biggest complaints I hear from healthcare providers about injury rehabilitation is lack of patient adherence and follow through, as patients often forget to perform or incorrectly perform the recommended exercises. Having experienced a long list of injuries myself (knee, shoulder, lower back, ankle), I can certainly sympathise with both sides. But with our ever-increasing busy lives, it is hard for us to find the time to complete home exercises correctly – especially when you have lost the paper handout with your exercises on it!

Healthcare professionals need to look at technology as a positive; with millions of Australians ramping up digital usage, mobility and intensity every year, our digital consumption is not going to decrease. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Communications published an interesting report for 2012–13.3. According to the report, during June 2013, mobility was an increasing feature of online participation with 7.5 million Australians using the Internet via their mobile phone. That’s an increase of 33% compared to June 2012 and 510% since June 2008. Smartphones are becoming the core to Australians’ communications choices, with 11.19 million smartphone users in Australia at May 2013, up 29% since May 2012.

And for those who still don’t think we are a nation of tech heads, as at June 20131:

  • 14.24 million Australians had access to the Internet in their home;
  • 5.64 million people use the Internet to work away from the office; and
  • 62% of Australians going online used three or more devices to access the Internet—most commonly a smartphone, portable computer and a desktop computer.

As Australia’s digital consumption is continuing to grow year on year, we find ourselves wondering why technology isn’t being incorporated into our healthcare service at the same pace as it is for almost every other aspect of our every-day lives? I shop online, I order a tradie online, I connect with friends and family online, I pay my bills online, I work online and I organise my daily life online.

We decided to ask the public through a consumer survey to over 1,000 people about the difficulty (if any) patients had to adhere to standard home exercise protocols and their feelings towards accessing a program like Physitrack via their smartphone, tablets or computer. We found some very interesting results.

  • Approximately 70% of people surveyed admitted to not adhering to the exercise program prescribed by their healthcare professional, while 19% said they find it hard to remember the correct exercise techniques.2
  • To increase adherence, the survey found 38% of respondents would be encouraged by a more tailored exercise program, while one in four would prefer an interactive video based tool.2

So consumers are indicating a desire for our delivery format – particularly around the exercise library. If the Physitrack tool influences patient’s adherence to his/her exercise program, then we have a great technology advance both for the health professional and the patient. We spent 18 months of design, trial and implementation with leading physiotherapists and medical professionals, to create Physitrack the web portal; over 600 videos stock the Physitrack library and we are constantly updating and adding to this library so tailored, patient-specific rehabilitation programs can be created in a few clicks. A great feature of Physitrack is that the program works as a memory booster, featuring automatic alerts via SMS and/or email, reminding patients to complete their exercises. Also, healthcare professionals receive real-time insight on patient adherence and feedback on pain levels experienced during the exercises or problems with the exercises. The exercise program can then be adjusted or additional appointments scheduled as needed.

In an ever increasingly digital era and increased uptake of eHealth solutions, we see Physitrack becoming the logical next step in the technological evolution for the current handwritten or printed rehabilitation programs given to patients by physiotherapists.

 

Marijn Kortekaas is the Program Director of Physitrack www.physitrack.com.au

 

Image: Physitrack.com.au

 

References

  1. http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/Library/Corporate-library/Corporate-publications/australia-mobile-digital-economy
  2. Online consumer survey conducted by Pure Profile. April 2014 (n=1003)

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