June 2, 2010

Medicalized Mobile Healthcare by Jim Bloedau

Buried on the second page of a June 1, 2010 Information Week interview with a  large tech company's director of enterprise business for healthcare, titled “Health IT Lacks Innovation, Integration”,  was mention of how there will be a migration from people being thought of as “patients” to them merely being “consumers” of healthcare. From a professional caregiver perspective, can we think that this will never happen? Maybe, but that is not the mindset that made us get into clinical healthcare. However, when we put on our marketing hats we can’t help knowing that it has already happened – mostly because of consumer demand.

According to a 2010 Brandeis University study, over the past several decades, people are seeking medical treatment for what really are more appropriately called “normal life conditions” rather than medical disorders. The report highlights how these “medicalized” conditions include menopause, pregnancy, impotence (now called “erectile dysfunction”), male balding, weight and body image problems, sleeping issues and anxiety, sadness or restlessness - more is spent on these than cancer, heart disease or public health. This rush to prescribe costly treatment such as medication, therapy or intense medical monitoring was estimated to amount to $77.1 billion in 2005, or almost 4% of the nation’s healthcare expenditures.

Add to this the healthy, active and sustainable living $515+ billion market that is growing at 11% annually and includes products for:

Wellness: complementary and alternative medicine, behavioral health, rehabilitation
Nutrition: organic foods, vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements
Weight Management: weight-loss programs, products and services
Healthy Aging: People live longer, better and healthier, if they have the money.
Active Sports and Recreation: action, adventure and endurance sports and equipment
Fitness: health and fitness clubs, sports events and event management
Relaxation and Leisure: leisure activities and products, alternative fitness and wellness
Sustainable Living: ecologically sustainable consumer products
Renewable Resources and Efficiency Management: environmental sustainability, renewable energy and efficiency management services

This is a lot for healthy people to follow and keep track of, let alone someone with a couple of chronic illnesses, poor socioeconomic status and being low on the tech learning curve. What tech will be needed for these consumer/patients to monitor their normal life conditions and healthy living practices? How does the family caregiver fit in as a buyer of tech for the chronically ill? What will be the best practices of traditional medicine that will sustain the inevitable move to greater participation by the consumer/patient in their care? More in coming weeks….

Image Credit:  Goran Zec

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