PART 1: The Prescription
Imagine a prescription that is indicated for everyone — it has no contraindications and the side effects include improved energy, mood, sleep, and reduction in virtually all chronic diseases. It is never too early nor late to fill it and it has unlimited refills. It has been shown to slow aging and help you maintain a healthy weight. You can even share it with your family and friends. Hint: It’s not a pill.
This is an Rx for Lifestyle Modifications. Treatment includes: a healthy diet, exercise, stress management techniques, and reduction of smoking and alcohol consumption. It has been shown to positively alter the outcome of chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, various autoimmune diseases and cancer.
These chronic illnesses are devastating, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people with chronic diseases experience worse health outcomes from COVID-19.
Fortunately, technology has enabled patients to communicate with their providers and receive more frequent and personalized care. These digital health tools are not only essential in a pandemic, but in the delivery of positive lifestyle modification suggestions as part of a broader treatment plan.
Studies have shown that adopting lifestyle modifications is beneficial to both physical and mental health at any age.
The sooner the better, as chronic diseases are starting to appear earlier in life than ever before. However, it is never too late to benefit from lifestyle modifications. Evidence suggests that intensive lifestyle modification programs result in lower hospitalization rates and reduced healthcare costs in older adults. One study, The Lifestyle Heart Trial showed that comprehensive lifestyle changes may be able to reverse heart disease in only a year, with changes similar to those seen with cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death and disability, and the largest drivers of annual healthcare costs in the US. 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 adults have 2 or more. Yet despite these statistics, more than 80% of chronic diseases are preventable through lifestyle modifications. This demonstrates the value of the Rx for Lifestyle Modifications and the need for digital health to increase access to treatment.
Digital health tools including software, health coaching interventions, pharmacist consults and remote monitoring devices ensure that journeys towards improved health do not have to start in the hospital or clinic, but can start in the community and at home with day-to-day lifestyle choices.
Pharmacists, who are specially trained in the use of medications and optimal use of supplements, as well as familiar with how to best help patients manage their chronic diseases, can use telemedicine or software-enabled outreach to check in with patients and provide comprehensive care, assisting with everything from nutritional services and smoking cessation to medication optimization. By minimizing barriers to communication utilizing digital platforms, clinical teams can help prevent gaps in treatment with more proactive care.
The Rx for Lifestyle Modifications empowers patients with the knowledge, skills and desire to incorporate healthy habits into day-to-day life. The key is to focus on meaningful and sustainable lifestyle changes — rather than quick fixes or fad diets. It can be one or two small adaptations at a time tailored to each individual. Lifestyle modifications must go hand-in-hand with therapeutic modalities and approaches in order to achieve the greatest improvement in health and resulting improvements in outcomes and cost of healthcare.