In the last few blogs I have tried to outline what I think the biggest challenges for Healthcare are. The most significant of which is cultural, not political. How in the world of convenience and rapid self-gratification do we get people to deal with doing the right things for their health?
Every 30 seconds, in the US, someone is diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. And while there are exceptions, most of those people have a bad diet, do not exercise or both. Luckily, you can often send your Type II Diabetes into remission by taking your medication when you should, eating better and getting regular exercise. This is true not only for diabetes but most chronic diseases that are life-style caused, and these make up the clear majority of healthcare expenses.
In the last blog, we looked at the challenge for people following the guidance given by their healthcare professionals. The trick is to change how the care that is offered ‘occurs’ to the patient. From complex, confusing and hard to follow to simple, memorable and actionable.
But how is that achieved?
Extending the Care Team into a Platform
Traditionally, we have thought of our doctor and her team as our Care Team. In fact, Cleveland Clinic, who have lead much of the practice of integrated Care Teams, includes a range of skilled professionals in their definition of a Care Team: Primary Care or Specialty Physicians, Community Based Providers, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Medical Assistants, Registered Nurses, Care Coordinators, Pharmacists, etc.
At Wellsmith, we understand that for sufferers of chronic conditions like Diabetes, your Care Team will extend well outside the confines of any medical practice. If life-styles changes are needed, then you will need the ‘care’ of your community, your supermarket or grocery store, any exercise and fitness providers like gyms, and all pharmaceutical or medical device suppliers. Most of this support is not only outside your doctor’s office – it’s outside their field of influence. Your doctor doesn’t join you at the gym and your Nurse Practitioner is probably not going shopping with you.
That is why Wellsmith has developed its Platform. Its objective is to help reach across your whole life – from your doctor’s office to your home – and connect those that are focused on your care plan. While the platform starts in your doctor’s office, with a prescribed Wellsmith plan to you, the platform ensures that your medication, your diet and your exercise plan are connected too. Using the latest in consumer grade sensors and the ideas brought to market through IoT (‘the Internet of Things’) – rather than leaving your Care Team at their workplace, they now live in your pocket, supporting you 24-7.
When your car is equipped with a satellite navigation system you have the option to use it. Of course, you do not have to. You can program it and not follow its guidance, you don’t need to turn when it tells you, you can ignore notice of the traffic jams, and on and on. But if you do have one and use it, then you can use it to get more efficiently to your destination. At Wellsmith, the Care Team in your pocket is like a Satellite Navigation system in your car.
Working with your Doctor, as a consumer of the platform, you define your destination. You can even select what routes or ‘way-points’ you want on the trip. Using the Wellsmith Platform then allows you and your doctor to follow your route to your destination. Are you taking your medications when you are required to? Are you doing the physical activity that you need to do, and are you sticking to the nutrition plan that would best support you?
Of course, like your Satnav, sometimes you take the wrong turn. Maybe you stop at a ‘way point’ that you hadn’t planned to (see Krispy Kreme). Like in your car, you don’t fail, you need to let Wellsmith ‘recalculate’ for you and get back on the trail. When you first get a diagnosis of something like Type II Diabetes, what you need to do may seem almost impossible to achieve. Wellsmith turns this destination into a simple route that is easy to follow by providing steps that are simple, memorable and actionable.
This changes the way that sticking to a Care Plan can occur to those that are on it. No longer is it an impossible journey but a set of achievable steps.
So how does the Wellsmith Platform do this? Well that’s the magic of our Care Platform and for the moment it is worth noting that it just does what it says.
In the first trial of the platform with 50 Type II Diabetes patients, we achieved a 74% Medication Compliance (industry average hovers around 50%), participants lost on average 1lb. per week, and they had a 24% increase in weekly physical activity.
Per the Mayo Clinic, “when the A1C test is used to diagnose diabetes, an A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate occasions indicates you have diabetes. A result between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes, which indicates a high risk of developing diabetes.” In our first trail, across the whole group, we managed, on average, to reduce their A1C levels by 1.35 points over the 90-days of the trial. That’s not 1.35% it’s 1.35 actual points. For at least two participants this took them into remission and off their medication.
Talking to many of my friends in the health-game, they tell me these results are not only extraordinary but if repeated, will create a whole new approach to managing chronic diseases. That is, as I said to them, the plan! The real issue is if this could be maintained over time. We get another chance to prove the platform over the next few months. Trial 2 will include more people over a longer timeframe. We would expect an increased drop off in this trail and we would be ecstatic if we got anywhere near 1 point of A1C drop after 6 months.
Very few people are “born with” diabetes, but those that are have what is called Type 1 (which was often called ‘juvenile’ diabetes) and it develops as a child rather than a baby. Where Wellsmith has been working today is Type 2 (once called ‘adult-onset’ diabetes). Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is, in fact, related to life style and basically obesity.
Obesity is a lifestyle problem caused over time and getting healthy for these sufferers is clearly going to take time too. The same will be true for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (or COPD), Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and so many other conditions that drain our health services of two-thirds of its funds.
For many, however, these conditions might be reversible or at least manageable enough for them to continue with a higher quality of life. It is going to take time, a new understanding of their condition and a tool designed to help them on their journey. A journey that will lead people to a better, happier, healthier life. The more people we can get on the Wellsmith Platform the better.