Health Experiences
Peter Heywood wrote this on May 26, 2014 / no comments

Pressure is constantly being checked. Energy consumed can be assessed over time and on real time. The time to the next check-up is always on view. If there’s trending to a serious condition, the monitors will let you know. And the information is easily shareable and actionable with care givers, not only at the regular location but across the country.

A picture of a healthier future of empowered healthcare consumers? No, actually, it’s my car, today.

tire_pressure_monitorIsn’t it ironic that the modern consumer has become used, expects even, that her car will have all the sensors inside to not only track mileage and fuel consumption but also, in many makes, to anticipate issues from a flat tire and impending low oil pressure to engine failure. And all cars remind you when it’s time to take them in for, er, preventive care.

And at least with my car, the history is gathered up in the key fob (an ECR, the Electronic Car Record) and readable by any garage with the right computer, whether a dealership or independent. Anyone with the fob can tell when my car last had its oil changed and what services were done including warranty claims.

People in healthcare really dislike it when the sectors’ weaknesses are exposed through analogies drawn to other sectors, such as service standards in retail or in this case, remote monitoring and data transfer in automobiles. And, to a large degree, I understand. Modern cars, as complex as they are, are dead simple compared to people, and when our cars become too expensive to fix, we simply go get another one, not an acceptable strategy for people or healthcare!

Yet it speaks to how technology, once embedded, starts to change our behavior and our expectations. It wasn’t so long ago that, regular oil changes apart, you basically fixed something on your car when it broke, the only preventive monitoring was really when the mechanic would pop the hood, listen for “that strange noise” and maybe take something apart, and your service records were greasy pieces of paper jammed in the glovebox or basement files.

Our cars are spectacularly better built than they were three or four decades ago, but we are able and conditioned to take better care of them too. We pay for it, of course – all of the monitoring, record keeping and data transfer abilities are buried in the price of our cars, but we ignore these capabilities at our peril. It could be argued that we take better care of our cars, certainly from the perspective of prevention, than we do of ourselves.

What about us, then? Will we change our own relationships to our bodies when we have the tools to do so? Will we become focused on preventive maintenance of ourselves, with tools that help us watch our sugar intake the same way our cars help us watch our tires?

It’s interesting reading the savings that some of the early ACOs are realizing in their new value-based care initiatives. $3m here, $5m there. Not chump change and it all adds up, but still just a dent in a $8bn a day sector. The real change will occur when consumers start to change their health habits to such an extent that their need for the healthcare system plummets. The quantified self is still some way off, as the average person’s ability to adopt monitors is still far from seamless or invisible and the cost high for all but the diehards, but the technology to track, transmit and advise is advancing rapidly. When awareness and prevention becomes as easy as my car makes its preventive care today, then maybe we’ll start to see the behavioral shifts that will truly affect costs and outcomes. And maybe my car will tell me when I should be walking instead…

Peter Heywood wrote this on May 26, 2014 / no comments

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