Healthcare costs are skyrocketing in this country for the treatment of disease and injury. We have seen increasing focus on prevention and wellness as the cure to the economic ills of the health system. Unfortunately, little progress has been made historically in wellness, prevention and disease management efforts.
But that is poised to change. There are 4 fundamental shifts that need to happen for us to reverse the alarming increase in obesity and chronic disease rates in this country.
Understand and eliminate the barriers to better health.
Over the past 40 or so years, we have made it easier and cheaper for people to make unhealthy choices. We are assaulted with food choices heavy in empty calories and lacking in nutritional value. Long work hours, competing priorities, and a dizzying array of entertainment options tempts us from a more active lifestyle. Worse, we have simultaneously created the perception that being healthy is a chore, is expensive, and takes too long.
Our goal as health care innovators is to reverse this trend by providing powerful information and tools (see #4 below) to counteract it. The more we can reduce the barriers to healthy choices people can make every day, the more we can improve the health of the population as a whole.
Look outside of traditional health care to create new value.
We also have a narrow view of the health care ecosystem, trapped in a world of sick-care. In order to create economically viable business models, we need to consider the possibilities of new and creative alliances in a broader New Health Economy, one that combines the expenditures in traditional health care ($2.9 trillion) with daily consumer spending that affects our overall health ($2.5 trillion).
Once we foster collaborations between traditional health care and the broader health economy, we’ll start to see some interesting products and services emerge.
Create innovative reimbursement and incentive models to influence behavior.
The majority of what we do to make or break our health occurs outside of traditional health care payment/reimbursement models. Yet, as the traditional health care system is forcibly ushered into the age of Accountable Care, there will be very real consequences for not managing population health.
Penalties will rise for providers and payers who cannot reduce the number of chronic users of the health care system and dollars. Incenting those with chronic conditions is only a small part of the puzzle. Creating innovative solutions that motivate borderline patients to improve, and subtly reward those who are actively healthy, is where the biggest gains in long-term population health can be made.
Build engaging and meaningful experiences.
There is no magic pill or single answer. We will need multiple experiences to reverse the epidemic of obesity and preventable chronic diseases. Successful models should mimic how consumers interact with technology today (easy access, simple user experience, ubiquitous access across devices) as they work to break down one or more barriers to healthy choices. Such models focus on delivering consumer value first, as this is the ticket to lifelong consumer relationships and the opportunity to influence behavior outside of traditional health care events.
We make decisions every day that impact our health, from the food we eat to the activities we do (or don’t do) to the drink we pick up to the cigarette we put down. Population health can only improve when we are willing to acknowledge that episodic care and everyday health and wellness must be brought together. Opportunities abound in this New Health Economy to carve out meaningful, profitable, and successful businesses designed to help people become the best, most healthy version of themselves.
Let’s get to work.