Digital technologies have had a game-changing impact on most aspects of our day-to-day lives. But one area that hasn’t yet felt the full benefit of digital is healthcare, in particular preventative health. The main reason being that technology can only get you so far, it then takes a more ‘human effort’ to encourage people to ultimately change their behaviour. To use the old adage: you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
As we’ve developed as a society, our perspective on healthcare is that it is something we should all be freely provided with. This is the problem with healthcare as it is today: with treatment so readily available and accessible, people have gained a sense of entitlement to care from professionals, rather than taking responsibility for their own health and preventing issues before they require treatment, ultimately placing unnecessary pressure on health services.
This is clearly unsustainable. It is therefore becoming our responsibility as individuals to be more accountable for our own health in order to truly facilitate a sustainable future for healthcare. The obvious place to start is finding preventative approaches to health – in other words, the ‘health’ side of ‘health(care)’.
Helpfully, today we have a new generation of digital health technologies that not only offer consumer friendly features, but more importantly, have been designed with a deep understanding of the human condition, to make it easy for people to adopt healthy behaviours – empowering anybody with a smartphone to manage their own health, without the need to visit a healthcare professional.
There are now a huge number of health monitoring apps and platforms available to individuals, enabling them to improve their health through analysis of data from their daily activities and lifestyle habits. Historically, we have relied on healthcare with the approach of treating issues but, with access to insights on our health now available, this approach is outdated. For many, simply knowing you need to sleep more or consume less alcohol isn’t enough to make a positive change but, as health tech is adopted, it seems having a platform which directly informs you of issues, with evidence gathered from monitoring of your everyday activity, is.
Many long-term health issues stem from everyday lifestyle behaviours which can be prevented should individuals be aware of the causes and immediate action they can take. As technology advances and more individuals adopt a preventative and self-managed approach to their health, we will be able to significantly reduce the prevalence of preventative diseases such as type 2 diabetes and alleviate pressure on health services worldwide.
By implementing technology which encourages self health management, healthcare providers can help prevent diseases by supplying suitable products to vulnerable individuals and providing tailored care plans based on personal data.
At present, the health tech space is nurturing a growing number of individuals to adopt the use of wearables and using niche health apps targeted to monitor one specific area of their lifestyle. However, evidence shows many people discontinue use of devices such as smartwatches or fitness trackers because they don’t find them useful or are unable to draw conclusions from the data they gather. The next step in health tech is not just gathering data, it’s making sense of it and providing recommendations from self improvement.
There are now platforms available which bring together all health and lifestyle data tracked from the multiple devices people use and combine results to provide recommendations for prevention or pre-treatment of issues. This is the future of healthcare and where we will begin to see real change, but the key behind this is to engage people with their own health and empowering them to take control and become self-accountable, rather than rely on health care systems, something we have been guilty of for far too long.