Healthcare Innovation

Healthcare Trends: The Shift from ‘Patient’ to ‘Health Consumer’


In his new book released last week, Glen Tullman writes about the healthcare trends occurring across the United States today, as people and organizations seek new solutions to the epidemic of chronic conditions. Forced to accept more financial responsibility for their condition, people with chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity are now driving change in an industry historically grid-locked by traditional healthcare enterprises. On Our Terms: Empowering the New Health Consumers, Mr. Tullman’s new book, is as much about the problems with our traditional system of care as the better model we could make it. He points out that the healthcare trends currently underway seek to utilize smart innovations in other industries to empower people with chronic conditions to live healthier on their terms. He explores the three factors that are needed to optimize chronic disease management and help people improve their health at lower costs, while increasing their satisfaction.

The first component is information—knowledge about one’s current state of health at any given time, communicated in a manner that is simple to understand, sensitive to the current context, actionable, and personalized to the individual. Information of this kind empowers people to learn about how to live healthier and more productive lives in the context of lifestyle behaviors and everyday living experiences. But how? Tullman points to blood glucose monitoring—the act of measuring and managing glucose levels—as the solution for people with diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions. Tullman calls for providing people with smart technology that can diagnose, track, and report blood glucose levels in a simple, actionable, personalized, and context-sensitive manner.

The second component is access to a caring community. Think Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networks, designed for people with specific chronic conditions. This network allows people to connect with others like them. Importantly, as Tullman points out, the benefit of this network is multifaceted. On the one hand, they benefit from the knowledge disseminated through the network. On the other hand, they gain a sense of satisfaction from consciously sharing their experiences to help others. Yet the benefits of the network also work on a deeper level. Using data science and the power of smart connected devices, the network learns from the people connected to it, to synthesize how personal characteristics and behaviors affect health. The latter occurs without users knowing it and ultimately provides personalized solutions—recommendations tailored to individuals for achieving better health—that work for populations of people. Personalized care at the population level is one of the most important healthcare trends currently underway.

The third component is access to real-time care, available whenever and wherever people with chronic conditions need it. As Tullman points out, conditions such as diabetes and heart disease don’t function according to a clock. Often, they force people affected by them to seek medical care at the most inconvenient times—at night or over the weekend, for instance. Because the current system of care operates for 9 to 5, this means people with chronic conditions must often depend on the most expensive and ineffective outlets for care: the emergency room. Rather than perpetuate this model, Tullman argues for a different model, what he sees as the crux of current healthcare trends and the ultimate future of healthcare. This future combines the innovations in healthcare technology with the clinical and consumer expertise of health coaches to provide remote care. Think OnStar for chronic conditions, backed by smart technology that provides preventative and prescriptive capabilities to keep people healthy during every moment.

These three factors are needed to take a ‘whole’ person approach, what remains a critical focus for Tullman and his company, Livongo Health. As the CEO of Livongo, Tullman believes that health care solutions must be developed that treat the entire person, rather than the condition in isolation, because chronic disease impacts every aspect of living. Diabetes, for instance, transcends the physical aspects of life to affect the mental, emotional, and social. To achieve better results calls for treating an individual’s needs comprehensively.

At the end of the book, Tullman calls on the health care industry to adopt “innovation as an imperative.” Innovation, he writes, is not only necessary, but critical and, fortunately, inevitable. As healthcare trends continue to disrupt the current healthcare system, the question is when we, as health consumers, will begin to see a system of health and healthcare designed for our needs and experiences.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

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