It seems that almost every conversation about the ‘future of healthcare’ includes discussion around prevention and wellness strategies. Governments and industry are acutely aware that our current healthcare systems are geared towards “sick care” i.e. treating people when they are unwell, rather than “well care” i.e. keeping people as healthy and productive as they can be.
Whilst this is nobody’s fault, rather design by necessity, health leaders are realizing that the cost and resources required to treat sick populations could be better utilized if they were spent earlier in the disease spectrum, i.e. before people even became seriously unwell.
This is particularly true when dealing with patients with chronic disease, or who are occasionally referred to as “frequent flyers” of the health system.
I am personally not a huge fan of the term (because it implies frequency by choice), but I can see where it comes from. It is interesting to note that from available data, many government bodies and large healthcare organizations such as health insurers can specifically pinpoint who the “high users” of the system actually are, in particular the usage of hospital services.
Yet, the available evidence in the literature on prevention is quite disparate in the relative benefits of prevention programs. We know there is benefit, but we’re not quite sure how to implement them well in practice. Nonetheless, there are guidelines to help us such from the US Preventative Services Taskforce, Dept. of Health, Victoria, Australia as well as advice of a diverse set of thought leaders in the Future Solutions White Paper.
Whilst defining the best way to tackle prevention is a complex problem, therein lies the opportunity for transformation.
I recently returned from a conference in Mexico, where I had ‘blue sky’ discussions with leaders from Google, Truven (top 2 healthcare data analytics company in the US), Seagate (global data storage company) and also Silicon Valley experts. It is clear that the use of “big data” plays a major role in identifying those at high risk of multiple co-morbidities.
However, what’s most interesting, is that in order to intervene at a level of prevention and wellness, we have to change behaviours, rather than prescribe treatments. We have to shift thoughts and emotions, rather than physical interventions.
This is a dramatic shift in thinking for current practitioners, administrators and providers in modern health system. Personally I think we could much better in changing behaviours, or more importantly, empowering people to change their own behaviours.
Yet marketing companies do this every day. They understand consumer psychology at a deep level, and are able to change mindsets about their products and services on a regular basis. Look at McDonalds, KFC and other fast food retailers.
This needs to be changed in healthcare, and it can change. New ‘big data’ and personalized health technologies such as Fitbit, Apple Health, ph360 and Pansensic are able to tap into mental patterns and determine how to best communicate with a patient, in a way they understand.
The second big insight I gained from Mexico came in discussion with 3 doctors from the US who were huddled in a corner talking about how they had little idea about how to manage their own personal mental and emotional wellbeing, much less try to introduce it to their patients or the system as a whole.
As such, I am collecting feedback to determine the need for a specialized Personal Development program specifically for leaders in healthcare and wellness. If this is of interest, l’d love to hear your thoughts.
Til then, ‘Adios Amigos’ and choose to live your success, health and happiness.