Like so many of us my days seem to fly by. One of my tricks is to listen to TedTalks Audio when I walk my dogs. This is 30-40 mins where I can sometimes be entertained, sometimes be saddened and always learn something new.
My passion has always been patient education, it’s the sort of marketing I like to do best. When I left my corporate marketing operations job, one of my main objectives of branching out on my own was to be able to keep a broader eye one the healthcare industry (beyond the Medicare Part D space where I’d spent seven or so years.)
Earlier this week my trusty phone had downloaded and August 2014 Ted Talk, featuring Rishi Manchanda and the topic was “upstreamists.” Manchanda’s talk was both educational and inspiring because it reminded me why healthcare marketing is my passion: because it’s about the person.
According to a Forbes article from around the same August timeline, “Our healthcare system spends about 80% of its resources caring for people who are seriously ill. Both the incentives in the healthcare system and the culture of U.S. medicine reward the use of high levels of skill and technology to “cure disease”. And of course that is what we all want: when we are sick, we want to know that the medical system will cure us. This is “reactive” medicine: fixing the problem after it occurs.”
That leaves a mere 20 cents of every healthcare dollar focused on keeping the well from becoming sick. And that’s not enough.
During Rishi’s TED Talk he uses the anecdote of saving children from going over a waterfall. In order to do this, we build rafts to collect several children at a time. Some rescuers swim out to the children and bring them in one at a time. Others stand on the side and toss ropes to children that can be reached. All successful and admirable efforts. But one rescuer started swimming upstream, and when asked where she was going she replied “I’m going up here to see who or what is throwing this children into the river.”
The most most effective way to turn the healthcare of this country around is to shift where the energy and $$ goes. Manchanda calls these the “Upstreamists”. The Forbes author calls it proactive medicine. Either way it requires healthcare administrators to focus on behavior change, and the basis of behavior change is where we then have to step it up with patient education.
Innovators in the coming years have a huge opportunity to build wearable technology that collects and shares an unprecedented amount of a patient’s data, but it has to be broader than blood pressure, heart rate and sleep. And it has to reach an audience broader than the weekend fitness warriors.
Patient educators have to be equipped (and motivated) to know that they can help “cure” social and environmental risk factors. Wearables that will take snapshots of things as stress levels, air quality, family situation will truly be able to drive upstream changes in health.