From Healthcare to Living Healthy (and Happy)

In today’s Wall Street Journal, there is an article about research being done to help reduce back surgery pain by meditation. A friend had back surgery and he suffered with a lot of pain. The world of health and healthcare will change dramatically as multiple disciplines converge.

Looking back, the industrial age, microelectronics and internet followed in a sequence over the last 150 years and created dramatic impact. In the next 25 years, there will be a greater transformation in our life as two parallel efforts converge - The new machine age, which is an integration of machinery, software and internet AND the integration of healthcare, activity, nutrition and pharmaceuticals. 

In the last 25 years, with the help of education and policy, the   U.S. has reduced the smoking rate from 40% to 15%. In the next 25 years, we as a society can and will make healthy living a social, technology, education, policy and cost issue and benefit from it. We are not stupid, just uneducated and under-invested about stuff that impacts the core of our life, a heathy life. 

A long time ago, when the power of electricity was first harnessed, there were millions of folks who were frightened of the unknown, and its dangers. Similar fears consumed many during industrial revolution. With electronics and internet, we all feared that we will be glued to a screen in isolation. We are glued to the screen but in fact, more social. The bars and restaurants in New York City are more crowded than ever, and the gyms and yoga studios are often packed. Not to mention that the size and calories of serving at Cheesecake Factory has gone down and so has soda consumption. TV is also evolving to interactive devices. 

Take a deep breath… where are we going!? How is the most important thing in life, our health and happiness, going to change in the future? I believe it will change dramatically, just as the combination of machine and electronics. Robots and driverless cars will change the way we live our lives and travel from one place to another and the integration of healthcare, activity, quality of food and data access will change the way we live. If a person goes home from hospital with cardiac bypass surgery, her data will be seamlessly available to family and the diet, medications, activity and care needed will be provided via electronic devices. These devices will record all the vitals and activity at home and make sure that care at home is well planned. If the family orders groceries, then certain items may be flagged, as not right for the diet of the person recovering at home. None of this is “big brother” watching. It is basic integration and seamless data for activity, food and medicine.  (I change my activity when I see my rest pulse going above 56. It is mostly in range of 51 to 54. Why now? Because there is information available to me.)  A care provider at home will have full details and the clinicians will get a daily summary. 

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg with Fitbit and iWatch. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies and Accountable Care Organizations will drive the change, since it is now also a matter of money. Consumers’ bad behaviors and ignorance about health is costing more money. It is estimated that 75% of the healthcare costs are behavior related and the rest is genetics or out of our control. The most recent report that 49 of the 50 states have reduced hospital readmission rates is undeniable proof. Don’t be fooled by just this one data point. Feedback systems such as, calorie info on the food, the fat and sugar content, our weight, pulse rate and consumer behaviors are super powerful and they always tell the truth. Soon you will also be able to see each doctor’s star rating and costs blasted throughout the internet much as they are now for restaurants. They too will have to compete on value. Your doctor will go from being someone you see when you are sick to someone you work with to maintain your good health. They will make money even when you are not sick! They will have a much broader view of your total health with access to far more data from the devices and services you use on a daily basis.  All that raw data by itself is not very helpful, but when transformed into identifiable trends and areas of concern using AI tools like IBM’s Watson, we will see our future health and not surprised by doctor’s diagnosis.

You may like it or not, but, based on your lifestyle, health and happiness, it will show you the likely result of the path you’re on and, more importantly, what specific things you can do to live a healthier and happier life. With all of this information you can view your health as you do your savings account.  You and your doctor will be able to see if you’re well invested and set for the future or already overdrawn. In this new medical landscape, it is more profitable for the healthcare industry to keep you healthy than it is to treat you when you’re ill so your doctor will work with you to create a plan to get you to your best health potential.

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