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Managing Multiple Chronic Conditions – Why is it so Complicated?

Chronic illnesses are on the rise – at an increase of around 14% per year. A growth in the population of seniors in Canada combined with a limited amount of resources and availability shows this number will continue to grow.

A complex patient can be defined as someone with multiple chronic conditions. Unfortunately, providing care to complex patients is no easy task. The patient and their family have to manage multiple medications and appointments while their physicians and specialists struggle to keep them up-to-date with the limited amount of time they have.

Luckily, there are cost-efficient solutions to relieve stress and save time for everyone involved. In this post, we will be looking at what exactly makes the coordination of care for complex patients so complicated.


Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are just a few examples of the many chronic illnesses that are prevalent today. 83% of Canadians over the age of 65 have at least one chronic disease, making up about 66% of every dollar spent in healthcare.

Anyone who has helped manage these conditions knows that the complications and treatments are not cheap. In fact, chronic disease costs the Canadian healthcare system approximately $190 billion annually – $68 billion in healthcare costs and $122 billion in lost productivity.

Although there is no easy solution to this obstacle, the government’s cost-effective initiative, Health Links, has been established across Ontario. A Health Link is a group of providers within Ontario working together to create a more coordinated model of care. Focusing on the top 5% of complex patients, the 82 Health Links aim to put the patient at the centre of care; are reducing the risk of hospital admissions and helping patients achieve their goals using a team approach.

Three out of five hospital admissions are a result of chronic disease so as you can imagine, the costs incurred by the system add up. A patient centred approach will minimize costs from potential complications through working together for prevention and management of their chronic diseases.


Communication – or lack of, could explain why so many chronic patients are constantly in and out of the hospital. Often times, when a patient has multiple chronic illnesses, they will be involved with many different healthcare professionals who each specialize in different conditions. As these professionals are focused on their own separate roles, they may not be communicating effectively with each other and the patient’s family.

It’s no surprise how easy it is for misinterpretations and confusion when this is the case. This makes it all the more challenging for the patient to keep track of their diseases and medications.

Situations like the aforementioned are the reason that healthcare professionals and the families of chronically-ill loved ones are downloading innovative healthcare apps. Using the right technology that can easily be installed on your mobile phone or tablet could make all the difference in how you interact with the patient’s care team.

Finding a healthcare app that allows the patient, their family, and all of their health providers to securely connect and update each other in one place is beneficial to all parties.


Canada is known to have some of the longest wait times in the world for medical care. 1 in 2 patients report having to wait at least four weeks to see a specialist – something that is experienced all too often for complex patients.

The time of physicians across the country is extremely limited as there are only 2.2 physicians for every 1000 people. So understandably, patients are usually limited to 15 minute visits.

For a patient with multiple chronic illnesses, this is barely scratching the surface.

This is where patient self-management become critical. As complex patients can sometimes be limited physically, they require some extra support.

Based on the patient’s unique risks and conditions, their professional caregivers can provide them and their family with the materials and instructions they need to manage their care. When a patient is given specific directions, they gain confidence and understanding increasing their ability to care for themselves with less assistance from professionals.

Using technology to monitor and track their health can give them and their families a sense of comfort and control.

When managing part of a chronically-ill patient’s care, it’s important to note all the challenges you’ll both face and how you will overcome them.

Technology is having an increasingly larger impact on how patients and their families interact with healthcare professionals. Finding the right platform can not only improve communication, but can also save valuable time (and money) when all care members can be updated simultaneously in real-time.

Overall, with the potential that the future holds for chronic care solutions, patients and their care providers should be hopeful.



The College of Family Physicians of Canada: http://ow.ly/wYPh30jbiDa

The Huffington Post: http://ow.ly/Hfb830jbiHO

Canadian Institute for Health Information: http://ow.ly/OJGz30jbiMw

Government of Canada: http://ow.ly/fg2v30jbiRJ

Feature image courtesy of Spine Universe.

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