December 13, 2012 Leave a comment
By Ron Loeppke MD, MPH, FACOEM, FACPM, Vice Chairman U.S. Preventive Medicine
The tectonic plates of our healthcare system are shifting and population health management is at the epicenter of that transformation. Leveraging the tools of technology with the power of prevention can be a foundation on which the restructuring will occur. The bottom line is that the intersection between mobile/wireless health applications and population health management can yield better health and better healthcare at lower costs.
There are several converging trends that are driving this transformation:
- The cost of chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes, heart disease and cancer) account for more than 75% of U.S. healthcare costs. This burden of illness impacts individuals, employers, government entities and our economy.
- The science of the Compression of Morbidity demonstrates that if people manage their health risks they can add years to their life and life to their years such that after enjoying a longer, healthier life they die more suddenly–at lower cost.
- Aligning incentives for better health among consumers, providers and employers can help make significant positive impact on population health management to reduce the burden of illness.
- Mobile health applications that build in game theory and social networking with clinical science are empowering people and their healthcare providers with innovative tools that are changing the face of our healthcare system.
Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine Is a Key part of the Solution
The CDC has found that 80% of heart disease and type II diabetes, as well as 40% of cancers are preventable if people just stop smoking, eat healthy and exercise. Preventing these chronic illnesses will have an enormous impact on the cost of health care in the United States. By providing and recommending self-monitoring apps and wellness programs, promoting the wellness culture and providing incentives for using the technology and resources available to improve health statistics and reduce health risks, employers and providers alike can help change the health care picture. Reduced health risks lead to improved productivity, prevention of chronic illness and reduced health care costs for individuals and employers.
As an example, published research studies have shown compelling health risk reductions of people participating in the Prevention Plan from U.S. Preventive Medicine after one year and also after two years of participation.1,2 In a cohort of 1,298 people participating for two years in their personalized Prevention Plan—there was a reduction from high risk in 14 of 15 health risk factors with a few of the notable findings as follows: 90.7% improved physical activity; 89.4% lowered blood pressure; 78.3% report fewer health-related sick days; 76.2% lowered cholesterol; 74.2% reduced stress; 70% improved fasting blood sugar; 22.6% quit smoking/tobacco use; and 16.6% lowered body mass index measures.2
The number of health-related smartphone applications, such as Macaw, U.S. Preventive Medicine’s mobile health and fitness app, is increasing rapidly along with the use of such apps across the age spectrum. Macaw offers easy self-monitoring through manual entry, GPS tracking and many medical devices, such as blood pressure cuffs, scales and glucose meters. Wellness apps such as Macaw will soon be prescribed by doctors to help treat their patients and empower them to take control of their health based on real-time measurements. In turn, the use of these mobile devices can reduce the amount of medical care necessary, thus driving down costs.
We are on the threshold of moving beyond our current “Sick Care” system that is reactive and illness based to a true “Health Care” system that is proactive and wellness based—built on the pillars of prevention and from a cornerstone of population health management.
- Loeppke R, Edington D, Beg S. Impact of The Prevention Plan on employee health risk reduction. Population Health Management. 2010; 13 ( 5):275-84.
- “Two Year Outcomes Show Effectiveness of the Prevention Program in Lowering Health Risks and Costs.”Loeppke, R; Edington, D; et al. Letter to the Editor. Population Health Management. 2011 14 (5): 265.
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