Disease management is a program in which medical professionals work with people who suffer from chronic health conditions to advise them on the best ways to keep their conditions from worsening. Common examples of the types of chronic health conditions that may be dealt with in this type of program include heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Medical professionals, ranging from physicians to nutritionists, may offer advice on the actions patients with these conditions can take on a daily basis to remain as healthy as possible.
The progress of disease management will typically differ depending on the specific disease that is being treated. A medical professional can recommend lifestyle changes that may specifically help the symptoms of a particular chronic health condition, such as changes to diet, exercise, or stress reduction. Patients may also be advised closely on the correct ways to take medications, how to monitor their symptoms, or what to do to prevent any complications from the condition. For example, a person with diabetes in a management program may be shown how to check his or her blood sugar, how to select the best footwear to prevent diabetic foot disease, and how to prepare sugar-free recipes.
One of the main purposes of a disease management program is to empower patients who suffer from chronic health conditions. A central belief behind the program is that by providing information to patients on how to manage the everyday symptoms of their conditions, it will help them to feel more in control of their situation and less likely to feel depressed or stop properly caring for themselves. These types of programs were also originally intended to help improve the quality of life for patients with diseases that do not have cures.
Another purpose behind disease management programs is to lower the costs of healthcare and insurance for people with chronic health conditions. Supporters of these programs believe that by teaching patients how to deal with their disease symptoms on their own on a regular basis, it would help prevent further complications of the conditions. By preventing complications, supporters believe that it may reduce the amount of medication, hospitalization, or home care needed for a patient and help save money. This aspect of the program tends to be promoted more often for insurance companies or government healthcare programs.
Critics of disease management programs tend to believe that the programs are not effective. They state that no conclusive scientific proof has shown that any of the preventative steps that patients are advised to take are actually helpful at improving their symptoms or reducing their risk of complications. Critics also generally state that there is no proof that the programs help lower healthcare costs in the future for these patients.