Tips to tackle multi-medical conditions.

Healthcare in the 21 Century has woken up to a new challenge — multimorbidity. The presence of two or more chronic medical conditions in an individual is referred to as multimorbidity. Examples include dementia and stroke, diabetes and ischemic heart disease, hypertension and chronic kidney disease. 

Multimorbidity mostly affects the middle aged and the elderly. Surveys in India have shown that over a third of all elders in India suffer from one or more chronic medical conditions. As chronic medical conditions co-occur, they lead to a cumulative burden of medical disability. Multimorbidity is most prevalent in these individuals.

Multimorbidity has significant impact on the person, family and society — in terms of healthcare costs, higher risk of hospital admissions and earlier death, poor quality of life and increased burden on the care-takers as well.

Where should we intervene?

Experts feel that interventions for multimorbidity must be primary care and community based and not confined to the specialist setting. Yet most patients with more than one chronic medical disease consult multiple specialist settings. In India where the family physician has gone out of vogue, people turn to various specialists. There is a need for integration of care, and this must begin with the family medical practitioner.

When should we intervene?

Interventions for patients with multimorbidity are needed urgently and without delay. Those interventions can be situated in primary medical care, and extend to specialist care settings. Healthcare professionals across settings, the family and society, should also be involved. 

How should we intervene?

Interventions for multimorbidity are manifold. 

Patient-centred: Education, support, self-management.

Financial: Targeting healthcare providers to reach specific targets.

Regulatory: National regulations designed to alter healthcare delivery and alter specific outcomes.

Organisational: Case management and coordination, allocation of tasks to specific members, addition of members to the team.

Best practice model in India

Our model of assessment and care for multimorbidity and chronic medical disability, developed for neuropsychiatric conditions, subsequently expanded to all medical conditions was adjudged a best practice model in the ‘World Health Report of the WHO, 2012’. In this model, both assessment and care are accomplished by an interdisciplinary team, care being rehabilitative and palliative, involving both modern and traditional medical systems, with focus on quality of life. Importantly, in the Indian context, care has to be centred in the family and community. Indeed, a series of editorials on multimorbidity in the British Medical Journal, have in recent times highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach and innovations.

The writer is founder-director and chief consultant: Neurokrish & Trimed, based in Chennai.