Wellsmith attended and spoke at the Consumer Technology Association Digital Health Conference at CES last week. It was a fascinating session with many great speakers and served as a great moment in time to test the ‘temperature’ of where we were on digital health. The opening session around “Hospital at Home” may have been the first indicator of a gap between what’s being done and what’s needed in the digital health world.
Hospital at Home enables patients to receive hospital-level care while enjoying the comfort of their own bed. This model lowers costs by nearly one-third and reduces complications. It is an approach, enabled by technology, that is highly rated by patients and caregivers alike. As one physician put it, “when I have a very ill patient, hospitals may be the most dangerous place to send them.” Additionally, 65% of all costs for hospitals are overheads and only 35% are associated with medical support.
This is a sensible approach, and should I become ill, I would much rather spend my days at home; however, this shouldn’t be the primary focus for patient care. We use the analogy of saving people by pulling them out of the river, and Hospital at Home appears to be a new and improved approach to pulling people out of the river. But why stop there? Here at Wellsmith, our primary focus is stopping them from falling in the river in the first place.
At the Digital Health Conference, we discussed how the long-term answer for healthcare is to eliminate the expenses of people who live with lifestyle-based and potentially reversible chronic conditions. The healthcare industry is aware that the top 5% of people drive over 40% of costs. It seems intuitive to focus resources on this small population and drive down costs incurred by the riskiest patients. The problem is that this group, the Critical Risk and Chronic Fragile patients, have a 40% mortality and were identified as a result of costs that have already occurred.
While a focus on this group may yield initial savings, the costs are generally inventible, and the savings are not scalable. Where the cost savings lie, along with the largest challenge, is stopping the Chronic Stable and Wellness patients from slowly progressing to the more expensive groups. The root of the problem for people suffering from lifestyle diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, COPD and CHF, is not determining what you need them to do but getting them to do it.
If these chronic conditions are the diseases of the disengaged, then the obvious solution is to get them engaged. But is that really possible at scale in a way that can alter long term costs in terms of both full-time medical employees (FTEs), management, and infrastructure? How do you get the disengaged, engaged and enable them to build long-term healthy habits?
Wellsmith’s approach is a Personalized Digital Care Plan (PDCP) prescribed by their Healthcare Provider with easy to follow instructions accessible from an app on their smartphone. The PDCP designed to fit into a patient’s daily routine, and fundamental to Wellsmith’s platform.
There is a wide range of reasons why patients do not follow their prescribed care plans. Some don’t understand them, some forget them, some don’t believe them, and some can’t afford them. At Wellsmith, we’ve shown that if we can make PDCPs simple and actionable, we not only help people follow their care plan, but also start them on their journey toward better health, which reduces the impact of their conditions and potentially its costs.
After over a year on Wellsmith, we have shown that a majority of users continue a majority of their PDCP a majority of the time, showing Wellsmith enables the engagement of the disengaged.