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Americans are living longer than ever, and while we should relish the achievement of extending the life span for residents of the United States, we now face a pressing challenge for the 21st century: How do we ensure we not only live longer but also live well?
To better understand the extent to which people, technology and healthcare systems are working together to leverage an increasingly connected world of health, Royal Philips released the findings of its inaugural Future Health Index (FHI), an independent study that surveyed the attitudes and preferences of both healthcare professionals and patients. Only by evaluating how both groups define and understand access, integration and application of digital technologies can leaders take meaningful action to optimize the patient-provider relationship.
Right now, Americans remain skeptical about their ability to achieve good health over the next decade. Patients (81 percent) and healthcare professionals (78 percent) agree each person is responsible for his own health, and most patients point to having the knowledge and tools they need to do so. However, only 37 percent of patients anticipate achieving very good or excellent health in that time frame, and 80 percent of patients older than 50 already deal with at least one chronic condition.
Providers aren’t overly optimistic, either. Fifty percent say patients are mistaken when they believe they know a lot about healthy living, 41 percent believe they lack the knowledge to maintain good health and 49 percent think they lack the tools.
Another weak point of integration in the healthcare system is the boundary between the care delivered in a clinical setting and in the home. Almost 40 percent (37 percent) of HCPs believe people don’t have the medical resources they need to take care of sick family members or themselves in their homes. In addition, 29 percent of HCPs think that more information about health, nutrition, and fitness would make their patients more effective in managing their own health, and another 39 percent believe that their patients need guidance on how to put such information into practice. Most of the tools and resources HCPs believe would improve their patients’ ability to manage their own health require minimal involvement from the clinical healthcare system.
Individuals also see the benefit of tracking health information. More than half (56 percent) of respondents report tracking their weight, and half (50 percent) track their diet frequently-yet at present few are relying on a connected device to do so. Of those surveyed, 54 percent keep track of the information in their head, and another 29 percent store the information on paper.
To further explore how that will impact the future of U.S. healthcare, Philips partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) to examine the market perceptions that are impacting the FHI findings, as well as identify three key forces that will inform and influence patient and provider views on access, integration and technology adoption over the next decade.
- Flipped Care: Access to healthcare will change from provider-centered to person-centered where encounters between patients and the healthcare system will occur virtually and in new consumer-directed settings. That demonstrates the need for integration and connected care outlined in the FHI findings.
- Integrative Health Systems: A system of health that will include the external factors well beyond the walls of the clinic or hospital: housing, family support, food, wealth and education. The FHI report highlights that integration is still in its infancy in the U.S.
- Encoded Intuition: A shift in technology from assistive to empowering devices will rely heavily on the patients’ willingness to take a proactive role in managing their health. That reinforces the FHI finding that connected care devices could play an empowering role in improving self-management of health.
To move from reactive to preventative care, individuals will be expected to be true partners in managing their own health. The ultimate goal must be to design a healthcare system and engage patients in ways that help ensure their health span matches their life span. Expanding how we measure our healthcare system to include patient-centered access and cross-sector integration will improve the impact digital technologies can have on cultivating meaningful and sustaining relationships between people and their doctors. It will help chip away at the diagnose-and-treat model that exists today and will allow for clinical care to play as pivotal a role in improving quality of life as it has in increasing life expectancy.