Preventative Health Care

Preventative health care technology, long touted, is finally showing truth to that promise.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that preventative health care is the best way to avoid deadly medical conditions like heart failure, diabetes, and strokes. 

In this context, preventative care means regular exercise, healthy diet, smoking cessation and to moderate alcohol or sugar intake. These proactive lifestyle changes pack plenty of potential value, as the CDC reports that cancer, heart disease and diabetes are to blame for seven out of every 10 U.S. deaths each year. 

Emerging Preventative Health Care Technology Solutions

However, this is a complex issue. Proactivity may seem like a no-brainer, but many factors such as rising insurance and medical care costs pose a barrier to preventative care.  And more importantly, behavior change isn’t that easy as these famous failures demonstrate. We are human, after all. 

Now though, we seem to be at a tipping point. Seamlessly integratable and user friendly biometric and behavior tracking technology is getting more attention from a Baby Boomer population not happy to “age in place” like previous generations. Innovative startup companies and tech leaders are stepping in to provide new solutions. Their work may finally help preventative health care technology gain more traction and achieve long-sought-after goals. 

Walk to Health and Rewards

Paving the way are Apple and UnitedHealthcare, which announced their partnership in 2018. UnitedHealthcare Motion is a national digital wellness program that incorporates the use of the Apple Watch. Those enrolled in the program can earn up to $1,000 annually by using this wearable device to meet daily walking goals established by the healthcare provider. 

Program participants only have to pay the tax and shipping on the Apple Watch and can apply their earnings toward the purchase of the device over time. Alternatively, if a participant already has their own Apple Watch, they can simply download the UnitedHealthcare Motion app. 

Even before this partnership with Apple, the company’s Motion program helped more people to be proactive with their health. The company says that, all told, participants have collectively walked more than 180 billion steps and earned approximately $30 million in rewards. Of the companies insured with UnitedHealthcare, 66 percent of their employees have registered their devices and nearly two-thirds of those employees actively participate in the program.

New Standards of Patient Care

Recognizing that the potential of data and technology to improve patient care and outcomes, Myia Health, a San Francisco technology company, created an AI based preventative healthcare technology monitoring platform for patients with chronic conditions like heart failure. 

Incorporating machine learning and real-world health data from sources like sleep sensors, connected rings, and even a patient’s smartphone, Myia’s technology measures things like heart and respiratory rates, blood pressure, balance, gait and sleep patterns. Any noticeable changes that might reflect negative outcomes are immediately forwarded to a patient’s doctor. More importantly, Myia’s system has the ability to recommend preventative modifications like diet and exercise to any patient, thus building in a preventative model from the get go. 

Myia is leading a new crop of companies like Karrot, Virta Health, and Omada, which employ the use of strategic data assets to both measure the health of patients and suggest preventive measures to better their health in real time.

The Rise of Virtual Preventative Medicine

Mercy Virtual created a benchmark for preventative health care technology with the opening of the world’s first virtual care center in 2015. This bold move helped expand the possibilities of preventative healthcare and technology. 

A brick and mortar facility employing nearly 350 health professionals, all patient care takes place outside of its walls like in a patient’s home or even workplace.  The virtual care center’s comprehensive telemedicine program enables greater access to high-quality, professional medical care at a fraction of what it might otherwise cost. This includes the largest single-hub electronic intensive care unit (ICU) in the country, which has led to a 15 percent reduction in the length of hospital stays.

And yet, Mercy’s greatest initiative may be their focus on virtual monitoring and preventative health care.  With thousands of patients equipped with home monitoring kits  Mercy is monitoring them in real-time to understand not when, but if they may have an exacerbation or complication from their conditions.  If their team of 350 professionals expects an issue, they will stage an appropriate intervention. 

A Prescription That Works

Everyone can play a role in delivering high-quality and affordable preventative health care technology. These three organizations and their prescriptions for change illustrate the possibilities. When startups, enterprises, tech giants and healthcare organizations work together, they can solve the health care crisis together.

Yes, this prescription is refillable. Innovative companies have lots of opportunities to contribute to this critical social cause.

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