The Future of Better Health is all in the Data

The Future of Better Health is all in the Data

Digital advances and increased mobile adoption over the last decade have made health information more accessible and readily available than ever before.  With a growing abundance of health and fitness apps, wearables and wellness products, it seems like we’d be at our healthiest ever.

However, the nation’s obesity rate is approaching 40% in 2019 – the highest rate ever documented.  Even worse, nearly 19% of children ages 2-19 fall in to the obese category.  

With over 320,000 health-related apps available, how are we in the highest obesity rate of all time?

 

Blame the Devices?

The constantly evolving digital landscape has shifted the population to be dependent on mobile devices and connectivity.

Tablets can stimulate toddler’s development, but can also keep kids and teens in a more inactive state. Kids spend half of their awake hours in front of screens, which puts activity levels at risk. Furthermore, an inactive lifestyle affects more than just obesity.  Failure to prioritize self-care can lead to otherwise preventable and controllable chronic diseases.

Social media can also play a role in the overall all state of one’s health. There are nearly 3.5 billion active social media users, and the average person has over 7 social accounts. Studies have linked high social media use to depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and isolation.  All of these conditions impact one’s overall health.

81% of Americans own smartphones, allowing easy access to products, apps and information that promote better health.  But are we at an information overload? Without really knowing what path or program to follow, we may be suffering from the paradox of choice and no better off.

 

Information Overload

A few decades ago, health care regimes seemed simpler to manage.  More people were insured, food choices were simpler and options were more limited. 

Now there’s more to know about.  For example, the global dietary supplements market is expected to reach almost $195B by 2025. This market is driven by the hectic work schedules among working individuals coupled with fluctuations in diet intervals.

Such factors have promoted the sale of dietary and nutritional supplements in the form of powder, liquids, and capsules across the globe. But if you’ve ever wandered around Whole Foods or browsed a vitamin website, it can be overwhelming AND expensive. How can a person be certain that they’re making the right choices and investments to optimize their own personal health?

 

 

What Happened to Instant Gratification?

While the digital landscape is constantly advancing, health care is highly-regulated and historically slow-to-evolve. As a result, consumers may be able to get information, but can’t always get access to what they need.  The average wait time to get an appointment with a family medicine doctor in New York city was 26 days. In Boston, the average wait time was 109 days. It’s difficult to expect people to manage their health if they can’t get treated in a timely manner.  And what is the major cause of these wait times? It’s not the Affordable Care Act. It’s inefficiencies.

Almost every health care operation faces inefficiencies related to patient flow.  Hospitals have overcrowded emergency rooms with long wait times that are difficult to estimate and can even lead to patients abandoning treatment. Those treated are handed off between departments, and departments aren’t always equipped with predictable information to ensure they’re staffed properly and the right equipment is available. Combined with delayed discharges, ambulance diversions and complex surgery schedules, patients face many risks for delayed or inaccurate care.

 

When Data is the Cure

In the example of patient flow, rich actionable data is a cure for the disease of inefficiency. Location data, in particular, can help streamline many of these obstructions within the physical environment. Location data captures human movement, and when used to its full potential, can solve for a lot more than patient wait times and foot traffic analysis. 

Sensor-based cloud solutions and location-based technology can measure every data point of the patient’s experience and automate outdated processes from intake to discharge. Some examples include automated alerts for physicians to check on patients exceeding a certain wait time, and in-app check-ins to alleviate long lines and associated bottlenecks.

Location-based data can also track equipment within the hospital, automate maintenance needs and allow instant access to patient charts. It uncovers patterns that give real-time insights to ensure accurate staffing. In simple terms, understaffed hospitals contribute to delays and errors, while overstaffing leads to wasted resources. Using data to maximize patient flow benefits not only the patients, but also leads to a more satisfied staff.

 

Advancing the Cure

While patient flow is one of the many factors in the overall state of health, most people’s health is determined by life choices that occur outside of a health care facility.  Fortunately, the technology advances across health and wellness continue to evolve, and applying advanced data sets and AI models are helping to deliver predictive and preventative solutions that drive better self-care. However, AI is only successful it’s based on vast amounts of accurate data to “learn” from, so these advances will continue to be more impactful for health care as more and more data is extracted from disparate sources and resolved into predictable outcomes on a larger scale.

Heath care providers have already seen success using AI to improve outcomes. A recent Accenture article stated that “Symphony Post-Acute Network incorporated AI and machine learning to improve care for its 80,000 patients, using a cloud-based AI engine to drive predictions and recommendations based on its existing patient data. The resulting insights led to a drop in readmission rates from 21 percent to less than 19 percent—a huge reduction in a key success metric in healthcare, at a cost savings of more than $13,000 per patient.”

As of current, there have fortunately been digital advances within healthcare that are helping people take control of their own health and happiness.  An Accenture study shows that consumers increasingly will choose medical providers who offer digital capabilities such as electronic refills, appointment booking, digital communications and remote records to monitor health indicators.  More people are using non-traditional care delivery services and virtual care has become an appealing channel for consumers with more complex needs.

 

Be Smart with Your Smartphone!

As health care becomes more digitized and data is king, so will the personalization component. The information overload will transform to a more customized solution with the right targeted information to help consumers make preventative self-care choices ranging from supplements, lifestyle and wellness treatments that predict one’s healthiest life with accuracy.

In the meantime, remain smart with your smartphone. While it can be overwhelming to find the right solution right now, here are 30 widely used consumer health and fitness apps to get started on your own self care. 

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