Managing Chronic Disease During a Pandemic: Tips to Help your Patients


Patients living with chronic disease have increased risk and susceptibility to COVID19. Due to safety concerns, many of these at-risk patients have cancelled important disease management follow up appointments. The fear of contracting Coronavirus has become a barrier to necessary care to monitor and manage their disease. 

Fortunately for provider care teams, this Catch-22 situation can be overcome by allaying patient fears and building a relationship of trust. To accomplish this, leading healthcare organizations have leveraged data-driven patient engagement technologies like SymphonyRM to reach the communities they serve with the following goals:

  • Educate patients on the additional safety measures that are in place at the clinic to protect them
  • Provide convenient appointment options and alternatives like virtual appointments with their provider
  • Explain the appointment scheduling protocol that the doctor’s office will use to determine if a patient qualifies for a virtual or in-person visit
  • Educate patients on the benefits on continuing on their care journey and risks associated with delaying their care needs
  • Offer educational content around disease management to help patients stay informed and engaged with their care team.

For example, the 30M+ Americans living with diabetes already had enormous amounts of health information they have to learn pre-COVID19. This pathology is one of the most difficult for providers and patients to manage. Compliance to an established care plan requires routine visits and monitoring of the disease. However, even in normal times, providers have the task of keeping this at-risk population engaged with their care.  During the current pandemic, these patients require even more engagement and guidance to help them navigate basic questions such as: “How often should I be seeing my doctor”?

The Cleveland Clinic advises standardized timelines based on the level of pathology.

“People with diabetes who are treated with insulin shots generally should see their doctor at least every three to four months. People with diabetes who are treated with pills or who are managing diabetes through diet should be seen at least every four to six months. More frequent visits may be necessary if your blood sugar is not controlled or if complications of diabetes are worsening.”

These guidelines remain in place to help this at-risk population to manage care plan compliance.1

In a recent Actium Health client outreach for Diabetes Follow-up Appointments, messages were sent to patients with diabetes who hadn’t been seen over the last 90 days. The majority of these patients had cancelled or postponed scheduling appointments due to COVID-19. The client experienced greater than a 45% conversion rate for patients that were contacted, and the patients were successfully scheduled for their appointment based on individualized needs.

While capabilities exist to customize the outreach based on the above Cleveland Clinic guidelines or other clinical recommendations, the most important goal is to get these patients their required care. Thoughtful, personalized outreach should include a clear explanation of safety protocols as well as appointment availability options. Every message should also stress the importance of not delaying care despite the pandemic.  Developing this level of communication across optimized channels has shown to be an effective strategy.