“Eat your broccoli.”
“I don’t want to.”
“But it’ll help you grow up big and strong.”
“Vegetables are gross.”
“You need to eat your vegetables if you want to stay healthy.”
“I don’t care.”
“What if I sent push notifications to your tablet so that you can keep track of your diet and calorie intake to suit your personal preferences?”
“How about I just give you five bucks?”
Wellness is a curious thing
Only in America are people as concerned about their health and what they’re eating and yet still are fatter and behind in overall wellness than the rest of the world. Maybe if we motivated people to eat right and work out in the same way most businesses get people to stream movies or buy junk online, then we’d actually start to see a difference.
All this, including the anecdote about our show host trying to get his daughter to eat his broccoli, came out of our discussion on “Leveraging Mobility to Achieve Wellness Care.” We started with a discussion about what healthcare organizations and other industries can do to prioritize wellness only for it to grow into looking at how we really provide personalized wellness incentives for the average person.
Our guests Affan Waheed, the Executive Director of Application Development at Mercy Health, and Bert S. Reese, the SVP and CIO of Sentara Health, mentioned that healthcare providers very simply need to bring staggering costs down, and the best way to do that is through wellness. But providers need incentives too, and the government isn’t giving enough reimbursements for them to move toward keeping people well. “We’re in the break-sick business, not the make-people-well business,” Reese said.
How we go about getting federal government collaboration is a whole other discussion, but if Healthcare providers can’t even find incentives to stay well, how can we expect the American public to? We may as well be picky children refusing to eat our broccoli.
“We’re struggling to answer those questions, and we need to ask, what’s in it for me,” Reese said. On a very basic level, when an employee goes in for an annual physical through their employer, staying healthy and partaking in a generally healthy lifestyle means lower insurance premiums for both parties. The employer also wants increased productivity, and he wants costs to stay in check, and the best way to do that is to get the employee involved in his or her own care.
Waheed explained that at Mercy Health they have programs in place that provide annual benchmarks, allow employees to set goals and track their improvement. Wellness, as he reiterates, is determined not just by outside factors but also by inside factors within your workforce and corporate culture.
But the ability to gauge a person’s current state and identify targets is critical to making wellness care worthwhile. “The common factor here is measurement. We cannot improve what we don’t measure,” Waheed said.
The trick with measurement is that having a concrete definition for wellness misses the point of how wellness care can be personalized to incent individuals. A 50-year-old woman will not have the same wellness criteria as a 20-year-old man, and Waheed says wellness should be based on a provider’s assessment of an individual and their ability to track and trend that information. Further, that 20-year-old will have different personal preferences regarding how they want to receive and stay connected with their provider.
“The technology is certainly there, and you see it in American business all the time. Everything is personalized and the system gets to know you. We can build that system within healthcare that takes into consideration your preferences and pushes information to you, all of it through your provider,” Reese said. “No one’s developed that yet, but we’re figuring out how, and a mobile device will be key.”
Waheed said tools like pedometers, calorie calculators and any other devices that allow a patient to have access to information, monitor their wellness and links day-to-day activities with medical records will be critical, but Reese countered with the point that none of this is going to be adopted unless providers meet the users at their level. Each of these medical platforms is currently within their own silo, and something like a pedometer is its own device not currently integrated with other things in your lifestyle.
“A patient’s healthcare data is her own property. Mobilization can help in that adoption,” Reese said, adding that if apps and products that come directly from the provider’s office can be linked with your personal smartphone or tablet, that adoption is more likely. “Who’s in charge of our own healthcare? We are. We need to take charge of what we need to do ourselves,” Waheed said. “The tools will come from machines, and the provider can help, but the consumer needs to take priority.”
Hear more about Wellness Care and from Waheed and Reese in our show “Leveraging Mobility to Achieve Wellness Care.”