Affecting behavior change is no longer solely the domain of public health or psychology. The technology-driven ecosystem in which we live has leveled the playing field, giving all competitors – from the smallest start-up to the largest healthcare company – the power to influence behaviors that can ultimately impact health. The difference is in how we harness that power to enable consumers to become more engaged in and proactive about their health and wellbeing. But to be truly successful, we need more than just innovation. We need to develop and deliver holistic solutions that keep the individual, not the disease, at the center.
That said, chronic diseases and conditions – such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis – are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the eight behaviors that impact the 15 most common chronic conditions – poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, lack of health screening, inadequate stress management, poor standard of care, insufficient sleep and excessive alcohol consumption – can in most cases be modified.
The first step in developing behavior change and wellbeing solutions is identifying which behaviors to change. Even more important is learning what truly motivates people and what can be a barrier to change. This requires an understanding of the science used to change health behaviors, paired with consumer insights. Designing user-centered solutions that intervene early – especially for at-risk patients – can help maximize the effectiveness of these technologies as a means of prevention. This requires shifting the focus to sustainable lifestyle interventions, rather than traditional point-of-care solutions – from sick care to well care.
And this won’t be the only shift. As we all know, health and disease management have traditionally taken place in a healthcare environment, such as in the doctor’s office. While this will continue to be a critical channel, today’s technology-driven ecosystem helps us meet patients where they are. Whether it’s at work, home, a grocery store or a local drug store, reaching patients at key points in their everyday life is what enables them to consistently make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing. And while new solutions are appearing every day, our charge is to keep pace with these innovations and leverage them to make meaningful connections with consumers.
In a world that is trying to balance the dichotomy between an increasingly active aging population and rising obesity rates, the demand for joint replacement and weight loss surgeries continues to climb. In just five years, the number of people undergoing weight loss surgery increased from 158,000 in 2011 to 196,000 in 2015. The direct and indirect costs of these surgeries can be high – for both the patient and the system – and the recovery not only protracted, but also requiring consistent patient engagement. But technology can be a powerful tool, serving as 24/7 patient companion to support, what can be, an overwhelming journey.
With that in mind, Johnson & Johnson developed Health Partner to support patients considering knee replacement, hip replacement or weight loss surgery. Each offering consists of a patient-facing educational website, a mobile app designed to help patients understand and adhere to their pre- and post-operative care plans, and a care portal that provides healthcare professionals and systems visibility to patients both overall and individually, and enables greater interaction to help ensure successful surgical outcomes. For example, since reducing barriers to healthy eating is essential to successful lifestyle management post-surgery, the Health Partner for Weight Loss Surgery app includes recipes that support each diet phase and can be integrated with tracking apps to monitor patient activity during recovery.
The right solutions, enabled through technology, have the potential to connect disparate parts of the healthcare system, facilitating access to decision-making resources and improving the care experience. By helping individuals address the underlying behaviors that can lead to chronic diseases and prolonged recoveries – right in their homes – Johnson & Johnson is helping to simplify the complexities and reduce the costs involved in navigating the system. But we can’t do this alone. With the collective power of many, we can improve health and wellbeing for all.
Len Greer is President of Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions. He will be speaking at the Techonomy Health conference in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, May 16th.