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Back To School: Chronic Care for Students and Families

Chronic care is an ongoing relationship between patients and healthcare providers. It goes beyond the basics of primary care to address longer-term treatment — which means every care plan is impacted by different events throughout a patient’s life. 

One example is back-to-school time, an important part of the year among kids of all ages and their families. For the patient, this is an opportunity to prepare for educational success; for providers like you, it’s a crucial window for solidifying care coordination. After all, the best health services are shaped and defined by everyday life, not interrupted by it.

Of course, back-to-school care comes with challenges, too. That’s why it’s important for providers to make patient care plans well ahead of time. Here’s your guide to navigating the back-to-school rush and helping your patients do the same.

 

A Quick Look at Chronic Care

A chronic care model is intended to unite different parts of the health system to address chronic disease prevention and treatment. This can include everything from offering critical information to supporting patients in day-to-day decisions and self-management. If you’re a provider in this space, you play a crucial role in protecting your community’s quality of life.

According to the CDC, the most prevalent chronic diseases include:

      Diabetes: More than 38 million Americans have diabetes, including about 352,000 people under age 20. This led to a total cost of $412.9 billion in 2022.

      Obesity: Affecting 20% of children and 42% of adults, obesity is a significant chronic condition leading to other potential issues like heart disease and cancer. It costs the U.S. health system nearly $173 billion annually.

      Tooth decay: Cavities affect one in six children aged 6 to 11 years and 1 in 4 adults. This has led to an average of 34 million lost school hours per year and nearly $46 billion in lost productivity.

 

The CDC also notes that more than 40% of school-aged children and adolescents have at least one chronic condition. That number goes up to 51.8% among adults, 27.2% of whom have multiple chronic conditions.

The reality is that chronic disease is a growing issue in the country — one that has a significant impact on everyday life. Such illnesses can impact educational outcomes, career prospects, mental health and more, even creating additional emotional and physical effects for healthy family members. As such, it’s easy to see how providers like you play a crucial role in overall well-being. From chronic kidney disease and high blood pressure to asthma, food allergies and childhood obesity, the uncontrolled impacts of long-term disease can stop with you. 

The problem is that these impacts don’t just exist in the exam room. They interact with every element of a patient’s life, demanding that you find ways to provide ongoing care at home, in the classroom, on the job and beyond.

 

Back-to-School Challenges for Chronic Care Patients

There are a lot of ways to approach chronic illness care. However, no healthcare plan would be complete — or even effective — without understanding the challenges patients face in following it. When school days are right around the corner, those challenges come in a few common types:

 

Schedule Changes

Summer months enable relative freedom in scheduling primary care appointments. However, school keeps your patients busy — which means they have less flexibility to come to their provider. Limited time can also make them feel like they have to choose between school success and medical or self-care.

 

Routine Shifts

For some patients, a routine is crucial for healthcare responsibilities — for example, remembering to take medications. School schedules impacting those long-held routines can make your patients more forgetful.

 

Financial Burdens

Patients and their families have a lot to pay for when school starts up, from backpacks and lunchboxes to tuition and textbooks. This can make them worried about the financial aspects of their chronic care, especially as healthcare costs continue to rise.

 

Added Physical and Emotional Strain

Depending on the patient and their chronic illness, school can add different kinds of stress to their daily life. Physical and emotional strain can complicate their care. This is also true for adult patients juggling kids’ school schedules.

 

Communication

A new school year means new teachers and administrators, which also means patients, families and sometimes even providers will have to re-communicate any specific needs.

 

Tips for Chronic Care Providers

As a chronic care provider, your job is to navigate all the above challenges and your own, including inventory management, staff shortages, budget constraints and more. The good news is that any kind of disease control or chronic illness care can be built around life’s ups and downs; all it takes is a provider with a plan.

Here’s how to be that provider:

#1: Try Remote Patient Monitoring and Embrace Flexibility

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a telehealth tool that helps you track vitals outside the exam room. This doesn’t just make life easier for patients who can skip the drive; it also helps you identify issues, improve patient outcomes and increase practice returns.

Telehealth tools and flexible appointment scheduling give your patients more control over their care, minimizing those feelings of “not enough time” or “too much to do” that can come with back-to-school tasks. 

But it’s not just your patients who deserve a little flexibility. You should also look for a provider offering scalable, customizable supply ordering and delivery to match your changing needs.

 

#2: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Simplify treatment plans where possible to reduce the risk of nonadherence. That doesn’t mean you have to cut out necessary care; just structure it in ways that seem clear and easy to your patients. Sometimes, that means simplifying your own processes — for example, by choosing one all-inclusive distributor instead of juggling multiple relationships.

 

#3: Engage with Engagement

Patient care engagement makes each patient an active participant in medical care coordination. Brush up on best practices for keeping them involved in the process, and don’t forget to empower your clinical staff with the information, tools and technology necessary to make it happen.

#4: Communicate Carefully

Communication makes a huge difference in care management. Whether you’re explaining high blood pressure, breaking down care costs or laying out prescription guidance, you should ensure that a patient’s care team is focused on accuracy, clarity and empathy. 

#5: Prepare for Anything

Back-to-school challenges can turn routine care into an entirely new situation. To free up the time and resources necessary to tackle unexpected issues, make sure you handle your facility’s basic needs long before that first school bell rings. For example, now is the perfect time to double-check your supply stocks and line up reliable distribution services that will be ready when you need them.

Simplifying Chronic Care All Year Round

When your patients or their family members head back to school, your role as a chronic care provider may shift — but it will never stop being important. Instead, it’s crucial to adapt to your own challenges and your patients’, building and rebuilding care plans that move at the speed of real life.

McKesson Medical-Surgical is here to make it happen. As a single provider for your most crucial needs, from supply ordering and distribution to remote patient monitoring, equipment solutions and more, we’re your partner in navigating whatever the medical world throws at you. 

Ready to prepare for that back-to-school rush? Contact us today to see how McKesson can help, or log into your  SupplyManagerSM account.