Part 1: Are We Asking Too Much of Healthcare Providers?


Despite good intentions and considerable effort, the U.S. healthcare system is losing the battle against chronic conditions. American adults are eating more and moving less. Outcomes are getting worse and costs continue to rise. According to a 2020 study, total estimated health care spending in the U.S. increased from $1.4 trillion to $3.1 trillion between 1996 and 2016, with low back and neck pain ($135.5B), other musculoskeletal disorders ($129.8B), and diabetes ($111.2B) accounting for the highest amounts of spending.

Providers and patients are both frustrated with the status quo:

  • Providers are held accountable for patient behaviors they can’t control.
  • Patients are increasingly less likely to get even 30 minutes of direct contact with their doctors. According to the 2017 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, 30% of physicians spend 17–24 minutes with each patient and 29% spend only 13–16 minutes.
  • Patients are finding it increasingly difficult to get an appointment in a reasonable timeframe. According to data published in June 2020 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. healthcare system can expect a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033.
  • Higher costs are driving patients to look outside the traditional healthcare system for answers. Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist and author of Health Consuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizen, says that people will embrace solutions that are personally meaningful and offer a good financial value.

Empowering Patients Between Doctor Visits

Short and infrequent provider interactions, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation, “take a toll on the doctor-patient relationship, which is considered a key ingredient of good care, and may represent a missed opportunity for getting patients more actively involved in their own health….Shorter visits also increase the likelihood the patient will leave with a prescription for medication, rather than for behavioral change…”

One key to solving this is finding ways to help patients make healthy decisions and influence behaviors when they’re on their own, away from a doctor’s care.

Mobile technology, Big Data, AI, and behavioral science can help, and the right combination of elements can make a real difference in people’s lives. An effective digital health solution does all of the following:

  1. Makes the ubiquitous smartphone—used by more than 80% of the U.S. population—a critical and convenient portal to personal health management.
  2. Collects accurate patient data directly through their smartphones, ensuring a steady stream of both objective (glucose readings) and subjective (pain perception) information that can be used to predict outcomes and interventions
  3. Provides attractive and valuable tools—such as dedicated coaches, personalized messaging, rewards, and gamification—that are proven to make healthy behaviors habit forming.

In the next installment of this four-part blog series, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of digital health/remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions in greater detail. Or you can download the eBook that includes all four installments of this blog series now.


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