Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Millennial Approach

I was recently talking about the state of health care with the nephew of a good friend. “Jake” is a millennial and sports enthusiast. He competes in Jiu-Jitsu and works out at a Cross Fit “box.” Last year, during a Jiu-Jitsu tournament, Jake suffered a tear in his quad as well as an injury to his MCL (medial collateral ligament).

He went to see an orthopedist who recommended surgery. This option did not sit well with Jake, particularly because a friend recently had the same procedure and was not pleased with the outcome.
Jake turned his attention to finding other options; he began to visit various websites as well as sports rehabilitation blogs. Since he suffered an injury common among athletes - both pro and amateur - there was a great deal of information to review.

Applying his research, Jake developed his own physical rehabilitation plan. Although there was a bit of trial and error, he was able to put together an exercise and rehabilitation regimen that has allowed him to get back to his active lifestyle and he is now largely pain-free.

When I learned of Jake’s story, I realized this is how millennials (those ages 18-34) will change health care as we know it. Tech savvy consumers like Jake expect instant gratification and they want to drive their health care decisions. They are a demographic that has grown up with technology and information at their fingertips. In fact, more than 54 percent of millennials said they search online for health information before seeing a physician, that’s according to ongoing research on the changing Art of Medicineby Nuance Communications. Not only do they use technology to gain insight about their diagnoses and treatment options, they compare notes using their social networks. An estimated 76% of millennials value online reviews from other patients when making decisions regarding their health or choosing a physician, that’s according to a recent report from Salesforce.

As health care providers, we need to understand patients’ preferences, behaviors and changing expectations. We must continue to find ways to reach people like Jake and connect with them at different points on their health care journey, offering them information and alternative services that might be more appealing to them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Taking Charge

There is no denying that health care costs continue to skyrocket. One significant way to help reign in spending is for health care providers and payers to encourage, incentivize and provide patients with the opportunity to take a greater responsibility for their own health and wellness. For example, mobile health apps and wearables help patients feel more empowered to participate in healthy behaviors, particularly since they have the tools at their fingertips (literally) to help guide them.

In addition to technology, health care providers like Jupiter Medical Center offer health and wellness programs, gym facilities, nutrition counseling as well as smoking and addiction treatment programs—resources that encourage and empower individuals to engage in the trajectory of their own health. This ultimately leads to better outcomes and cost savings.

As David Cordani, President and CEO of Cigna, explained in a recent report  and citing a 2013 study, when patients feel more engaged, “they are more prone to participate in their health care decisions, get appropriate and recommended treatments (including preventative care) and engage in healthy behavior and seek out and use health care information. They are also less likely to be hospitalized or use emergency room for treatment.”

This is a win for the patients and the health care industry. Don’t you think?

Thursday, July 7, 2016


The integration of technology into health care is nothing new. Despite significant advances in health care-based technology over the last decade, up until fairly recently, patients still received most of the information on their health and wellness directly from their physician. Today, the proliferation of mobile health care apps and wearable devices is reformulating the ways in which individuals monitor their own health and drive their health care choices.

Patients can now track their heart rate, count steps and calories, monitor their stress levels and sugar intake, as well as receive advice and health care tips all through a bracelet they wear on their wrist or by tapping an app on their smart phone. This has caused some in our sector to become increasingly concerned that by relying on these apps to drive their health and wellness, individuals will rely less on the advice and services of medical professionals.

The reality is that these apps are fostering patients to become more engaged in their own health and wellness and to take greater responsibility for staying healthy — eating better, exercising more and finding additional ways to reduce stress. This can lead to nothing but better outcomes.

So the question becomes: how then do we truly integrate this technology into today’s health care system? First, I think we have to view the increased engagement of patient’s in their own health care as an opportunity for doctors and patients to enter into more meaningful and “bigger picture” conversations about long-term health and wellness.

As providers, we also have to work with technology partners to create systems to collect and share mobile health care data with other providers as well as with our patients. This makes it possible to have treatment and disease management based on a 360-degree health picture visible by both patient and doctor. One organization that is doing this quite effectively is Ochsner Health System out of Louisiana. Through their Digital Medicine Program they monitor patients through their mobile devices or wearables and proactively engage with them to modify behaviors, adjust medications, etc. They even set up an O Bar, like an Apple genius bar, to assist patients who wish to use today’s emerging health technology. I believe that it is pioneers like the Ochsner Health System who are paving the way toward greater digital adoption among consumers and providers alike.