Industry View: Where healthcare needs to be five years from now
First posted eHealthNews.nz
NZHIT guest column by Siobhan Bulfin, founder and CEO, Melon Health
Melon Health CEO Siobhan Bulfin sets out Melon Health’s five-year plan for healthcare and how treating the conditions of life is central to it.
Accessible healthcare for all
In five years, healthcare should be more accessible to everyone regardless of economic status, race, gender or geographic location. This is an enormous goal, so large it would be easier to never attempt it. Instead, let’s face the problem head on and create innovative ways to tackle the obstacles that stand in our way.
Treating the conditions of life
While there are likely many ways to do this, we believe the primary way is to prevent disease from happening in the first place.
Traditionally, healthcare has focused on treating disease as it occurs. This is unfortunate for our communities. Disease depletes our healthcare resources while driving costs up. Therefore, the question traditional healthcare must answer is this: why start at the end of the process when you could start at the beginning?
If disease can be prevented, and it can be, then prevention is the first step towards making healthcare more affordable. Even when a person is diagnosed with a disease, treating the conditions of life prevents those diseases and debilitating symptoms from progressing.
For instance, if healthcare helps patients fight obesity by encouraging healthy, active lifestyles, conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes also decrease.
How to do it
Treating the conditions of life aims at getting communities engaged in their own health. It reaches beyond a doctor’s appointment and prescription counter. People taking ownership of their own health is when long-term change begins.
However, to do this, healthcare providers need to actively incentivise patients to take ownership of their health. With the time constraints clinicians are currently facing, how can they be more involved than they already are?
Whole person care
To really be effective at treating the conditions of life, clinicians need a way to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms or side effects. This means they have to be able to see the whole picture. Whole person care takes into consideration social, medical, behavioural and economic factors that patients face.
Included in this approach is an understanding of the way stress impacts patients’ physical and mental health. Persistent negative emotions have been shown to decrease health results in patients. By treating the underlying cause of symptoms, clinicians can expect to see results that go beyond the clinic.
A recent study shows that patients were more likely to follow through on treatment when paired with whole person care. But it goes without saying that this kind of care can’t be administered in a traditional appointment. It requires long-term involvement and interaction with healthcare experts.
At the heart of holistic health is a desire to connect patients with a sense of community support whether through clinicians, health coaches or online help groups.
By treating the conditions of life, healthcare systems strive to affect lifestyle changes that benefit both the patient and healthcare systems. Patients avoid chronic disease, and medical institutions avoid the costly treatments associated with chronic illness.
When faced with lifestyle changes, many people attempt too much, too fast. That’s why, for the majority of the time, they don’t succeed. Treating the conditions of life enables patients to make small incremental changes they cannot fail to reach. Over time, these habits start to compound, resulting in transformed lifestyles.
In the circumstance of weight loss, a small change could be making a commitment to walk for 10 minutes, two times a week. Or it could be substituting soda for carbonated water. In either example, small changes construct the foundation for bigger change.
Patients need encouragement to stay motivated with the changes that may at first seem insignificant. This is why they need support and coaching from a community. When they’ve lost their resolve to continue, their community can help them brainstorm for solutions and encourage them to continue.
Staying connected has an enormous impact on a patient’s resolve to continue. The more accessible the information, the more likely that patients will access it. In preventative care models, access is key.
This is why information and coaching via technology is so beneficial. It is accessible regardless of location and economic status. Technology provides easy access to community and health coaching. With the help of their devices, patients can get help anytime, anywhere. In return, clinicians can expect to see greater follow through in preventative care.
Powered by technology
Technology will enable clinicians and healthcare systems to treat the conditions of life. Because patients aren’t bound by a physical location or socioeconomic status, they can better fight and prevent chronic disease.
Siobhan Bulfin is the founder and CEO of Melon Health