Having served as an internal medicine physician in primary care, hospice, and palliative care settings for about half of my 30-year career in healthcare, I have seen firsthand how chronic illness impacts the lives of patients, caregivers, and loved ones. Individuals diagnosed with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension must manage major changes to their routines and behaviors, all while dealing with the typical stressors of everyday life. With six in 10 adults in the United States managing at least one such condition on a daily basis, providers often find themselves overworked and overwhelmed as they work to provide care to this population and curb the impact of this epidemic.
In a fragmented healthcare system that is stretched to capacity, the millions of people at-risk of or actively managing their chronic conditions require a cadence of support and coaching that providers cannot deliver on their own. July is Chronic Disease Month, and a great opportunity to recognize ways that innovative approaches to chronic disease prevention and management can help ease this burden. At Lark, we believe that in order to meaningfully impact access and outcomes for this growing patient population and tackle the chronic disease epidemic head-on, we need to provide patients with continuous, personalized care and education that empowers them to take control of their health.
By leveraging AI-based digital health solutions, health plans, providers and employers are now uniquely positioned to augment the critical work of providers without adding to their workload. Let’s dive into three key ways AI can support our healthcare ecosystem and change the trajectory of delivering digital, clinically effective and personalized care at scale:
1. Extend the reach of providers.
Earlier this year, the United States Surgeon General released an advisory emphasizing that, while burnout among healthcare workers had already reached crisis levels in 2019, the issue has been even further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As our healthcare system is faced with staffing shortages and extensive provider burnout, there simply are not enough clinicians to provide the personalized, readily-available coaching and support that patients need throughout the day.
Through the power of AI technology, Lark can provide support for patients and providers alike by leveraging solutions that deliver 24/7, on-demand coaching and drive positive behavior change to establish healthy habits. By deploying remote patient monitoring capabilities that collect and analyze real-time updates on users’ blood pressure and blood glucose levels, AI-based digital health solutions can also escalate members to additional care as needed while saving providers’ clinical expertise and time for the most acute or emergent needs.
By providing patients with the resources needed to manage their care proactively and in real time, digital health solutions can augment the work of clinicians and offer them more bandwidth to provide quality care to the patients who need it most.
2. Bridge gaps in access.
As it stands today, the vast majority of Diabetes Prevention Programs (DPPs) are conducted in-person, which, while effective, limits the reach of this clinically proven intervention. More than 300,000 adults completed the program between 2012 and 2019. However, in 2022, there are an estimated 88 million adults, over one-third of the American population, with prediabetes. Many of the patients left behind are historically underserved. Additionally, those living in federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) may also lack access to important primary care services. Evidence demonstrates that solutions like Lark can bridge these gaps in care and extend the reach of these programs beyond the geographical constraints of an in-person DPP, while delivering clinical outcomes on par with in-person programs.
For example, recent peer-reviewed research published in Population Health Management found that, of the 16,327 Lark DPP users in the study, more than 90 percent of participants did not have access to an in-person DPP within their zip code. Lark also reached a higher percentage of members living in partial or whole-county HPSAs than the broader population, and participants saw an average weight loss of 9.1 pounds.
By delivering effective chronic disease prevention and management through an easy-to-use smartphone app, digital solutions can help bridge gaps in care and improve health equity, particularly for populations who might have difficulty accessing traditional care.
3. Provide effective, personalized care.
AI-based digital health solutions like Lark can empower patients to experience a level of personalized care on par with live providers. By collecting frequent, individualized health data inputs from patients, Lark’s AI is capable of formulating insights designed to meet the specific needs and goals of each user. With a collection of over one billion data points from more than 2 million users, Lark’s AI is constantly learning to deliver an even more personalized healthcare experience to patients with varying needs.
Moreover, Lark is rooted in behavior change; whether that is helping each user to be mindful of something as they carry on through their day, like what they’re eating, or how much they’re eating, or sharing with them educational resources when they need it. With every touch point and conversation, Lark’s AI learns their behaviors, patterns and current health status to better tailor messaging that will resonate and lead to action.
Living with a chronic condition is an experience that requires determination, discipline, and a network of people with the compassion and resources to provide necessary care and support. In a system like ours, we must come together to uplift the needs of chronic patients and advocate for changes in care delivery that will allow them to live with fewer worries and better health.
Dr. Lynne Nowak
Chief Medical Officer Lark Health