Sunday, May 31, 2009

Health impact requires both Engagement and Benefit from Solution

Just saw a great comment on the Healthcare X PRIZE from Notions' Oceans:

Consumer(1) engagement: Consumers must opt-in to any programs the teams offer. The assignment of people to a team makes high rates of participation a requirement for success.
And there's the rub: People do things that are harmful to themselves. And, just as infuriatingly, people irrationally do other things with no demonstrable benefit in hopes of protecting themselves. An X Team can tell people not to smoke, for example, but who hasn't heard that before? In fact, is there anyone in America who smokes but hasn't heard, at least a million times, that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bladder cancer, hastens heart disease, etc, etc, etc? Or food: who would choose hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis over health? Everyone who eats beef more often than once a week, it turns out, and probably everyone who eats McDonald's more than once a month.

But on the other end of the spectrum are those who obsess over organic produce, ear candling, full body CT scans, executive physicals, and the like, who waste just as much effort from an overtaxed cohort of physicians, nurses, hospitals, and fellow insurance purchasers as the souls who indirectly choose tobacco, fat, and salt over health.
Its a great point that you need two ingredients for better health from any program:
  1. People need to participate in the program
  2. The program actually needs to improve that person's health
Many of the commercials I see touting health benefits drive me nuts...there is very little evidence that this "healthy option" actually accomplishes anything for the individual taking it. (ie, if you slightly lower your cholesterol, but have .00005% chance of having a heart attack, did you accomplish anything?, do you need 100% of your daily vitamins and nutrients in your breakfast if you plan on eating more that day?)

All of these are fine marketing tactics for given products, but they do add to the noise and confusion for those of us actually trying to improve the health of our communities.

Our competition has been designed in a way that teams need to both understand what works (and for each individual in their care) and engages them in the most important solutions (this would focus on absolute risks for each individual rather than relative improvements across populations like we see in pharmaceutical trials today). We look forward to seeing the innovations of our teams in generating relevant solutions for individuals: both impactful and engaging.

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