Do you ever find it ironic that when we talk about our health system, we are really talking about a sickness system? The focus of our current “healthcare” system is treating people when they’re sick.
At the same time, we have a burgeoning consumer health market that focuses entirely on health and wellness. People are increasingly taking advantage of health apps, consumer medical devices, exer-gaming, wearable health and fitness technology … the list goes on.
Currently the traditional healthcare system and the consumer health market exist in parallel, with minimal intersection. But it will be increasingly important to find ways to bring them together.
As we all know, chronic disease is one of the biggest challenges that our traditional healthcare system faces. The consumer health space provides tools that motivate people to live healthier lifestyles—and healthy lifestyles can help prevent and improve chronic disease. Consumers can also now measure and track things like their weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose on a daily basis—which can lead to better awareness and management of chronic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
In this way, consumer health tools can help alleviate the cost problems of our traditional health system. Because, for example, if people manage their blood pressure properly, they’re less likely to end up in the hospital with a stroke or heart attack. People who understand their own conditions and manage them properly don’t end up costing the healthcare system as much.
What’s more, the information captured by consumer health tools can be valuable to a clinician in monitoring and treating a person’s condition. Now the doctor can look at daily measurements of weight or blood pressure to see trends versus measurements that are only taken at the doctor’s office every few months.
If we were to reimagine the health system, how could it incorporate more of the consumer health space? How could it include not just information about our episodic medical interventions, but also information about our self-management and lifestyle?
Personally, I’m bringing these two types of information together using HealthVault. I wear a Fitbit device that counts my daily steps, monitors activity intensity, and calculates distance and calories burned. I share this information via the Fitbit app on my Windows Phone and compete in a social leaderboard with my peers for the daily prize and weekly ranking. I’m finding that wearables like the Fitbit tracker are going mainstream, and enough of my peers are active to make it truly motivating.
I also regularly measure my blood pressure at home. The information from my Fitbit and blood pressure devices feeds into my personal health record on HealthVault. This helps me manage my weight and hypertension. And I’ve provided access to this information to my trusted healthcare providers so they can see my daily home health readings. I also keep my medical records in my HealthVault account so everything is in one place.
This is just one example of how the consumer health space and the traditional healthcare system are beginning to come together. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how leaders from both sides collaborate to create a flexible, adaptive system that includes the consumer as an active participant—and helps us shift from a “sickness” system to a “health” system.
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