One of the big problems Wellsmith helps solve for health care, and consumers alike and one that has vexed both for a long time: following care plans.

We have heard from clinicians for years that patients just don’t follow their care plans. There are as many reasons why as there are patients who don’t follow them. At the same time, when we talk to patients (we call them ‘consumers’) they say the reason they don’t follow care plans is that it’s too hard. Again, the reasons why are as varied as the consumers who aren’t following them.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single atomic step

By trying to overcome everyone’s individual reasons why those who are trying to “fix” the health crisis tend to make very slow progress. But if we focus on the basic elements of the problem, finding a solution is much easier. What is fundamentally true about Care Plans is this:

  1. When people follow their care plans, they tend to get better at managing their condition; in addition, a great number of them actually show measurable health improvements.
  2. If people don’t follow their care plans, they tend to decline in health over time.

This is why I find a book I recently discovered quite fascinating. James Clear’s “Atomic Habits: An easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” dives into how habits are created and how we might make small steps to achieve greater long-term changes. This hit home with me because it is actually at the heart of the Wellsmith philosophy.

Clear’s observations are that by creating tiny (atomic) improvements, say 1% each day, you can actually be 37% further along a year later. Similarly, if you decline by 1%, you will be that far behind in a year. This aggregation of marginal gains is how humans create breakthrough moments—those times when we actually can see, feel, or demonstrate a change. Bigger changes tend to occur after we cross a critical threshold of attempts. Further, he states, the most powerful outcomes are the ones that are delayed.

Wellsmith’s philosophy is to empower consumers to take greater control over the management of their chronic condition by giving them simple, memorable and actionable small steps to take each day. When our participants engage in these simple and actionable steps consistently over time, their data tell us they are making progress toward (1) managing their condition because they are doing a better job of following their Care Plan, and (2) showing incremental and measurable improvements across a set of leading health improvement indicators, such as increased activity and medication compliance, and improved glycemic control.

Challenge for those suffering with chronic conditions

People who are diagnosed with a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes often find themselves battling emotional and psychological problems in addition to the disease itself. It can, and often does, seem overwhelming for someone who has lived a particularly sedentary lifestyle that includes poor food choices and a family history of the disease to believe they can actually manage and even improve their overall health.

But by providing “atomic” steps for our participants to take each day, we are helping our participants to create a path toward an improved health state. How do we know? Well, after a year on the platform, a cohort bout 400 of our participants have walked over 525 million steps. That’s 275,000 miles, or an average of 687 miles per participant per year. And they did it by taking a prescribed number of steps more often than not each day. In addition, 89% of the people who started on our platform in 2018 are still on it at the beginning of 2019. Some of them tell us, the built-in accountability mechanisms like automated medication reminders and kudos for reaching milestones keep them on track.

What we believe at Wellsmith

Success happens when we can get people to adopt and internalize some basic health habits by having them repeat those steps consistently. This is, without a doubt, the core purpose of a Care Plan. And we believe what Clear states in his book, a habit can be formed from less than 100% compliance. As long as people make those incremental steps a majority of the time, the chances of their good habit taking hold, or their bad habit disappearing are quite good.

When it comes to helping consumers create better health habits, Wellsmith is on to something really good!