Archive for the ‘Health Innovation’ Category

Six Truths for Success as a Digital Health Company

Digital HealthFor years “ health care” and “technology” were two very different, mutually exclusive industries. Health care as an industry was viewed as service-centric and to many people’s dismay, was very slow to evolve. However, about a decade ago with the expansion of Internet access and the introduction of smartphones and tablets, a shift started to occur as forward-leaning health organizations recognized the power of including high-tech engagement tactics with high-touch interaction models. The result was the convergence of health and tech, spawning a whole new generation of consumer-focused health companies.

The proliferation of “health tech” has evolved to what is now is simply known as digital health. These organizations are taking the same tech-driven principles that are woven into all other areas of our daily lives and applying them to help consumers either manage their health or navigate the health care market.

While digital health has been an explosive area of growth and advancement, it is not always a slam-dunk. In the article “Six Truths Digital-Health Entrepreneurs Need to Know,” Beth Seidenberg, a general partner of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, outlines key fundamentals every digital health company needs to be cognizant of to have the best chance of success. Her truths are:

  • New tech solutions should cut costs, increase revenue or cut red tape
  • A single app without an open API is an adoption and scale killer
  • Customer leverage is key to success
  • Build a revenue model before you build your service
  • High-tech and high-touch are not mutually exclusive
  • Tech and health care entrepreneurs need to join forces

As Beth concludes her article, “The fix for the health-care system and our country’s rising deficit is counting on savvy digital and life-science entrepreneurs to join forces, explore each other’s worlds, build important new businesses — and save our country from financial ruin.” We couldn’t agree more.

The Divide that Keeps Dividing – Let’s Get Digital

Our wellness solution is multi-modal. And for good reason – we engage consumers in their health and help them achieve lasting behavior change when we reach them The Divide that Keeps Devidingthrough their preferred media. Consumer learning styles and preferences vary. As do their media access options – for some audiences more than others. Ours is a stream all consumers can swim, not one restricted to those with Internet access. But more and more, the opportunities and solutions consumers have access to are broadened, sometimes significantly, with that proverbial membership card to the World Wide Web – broadband.

That’s why we continue to be reassured as we watch the wall between the web-enabled and the web-without falling further and further into rubble and dust. The more access is shared, the better. Two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released a compelling Demographic Portrait of consumer technology use – evidence the racial divide of Internet access, specifically between white and black Americans, is positively evolving. And rapidly. There’s still a divide, especially within specific income brackets and in the retiree age subpopulation. But the racial landscape of the web-enabled is expanding. And some of the shifting terrain is enlightening.

According to Pew’s latest survey, 86% of African Americans aged 18-29, 88% black college graduates and 91% African Americans with household incomes of $75,000 or more are active Internet users AND have broadband access within their homes. Those are adoption rates identical to white Americans of similar ages, incomes and education levels. Also compelling, African Americans lead their white counterparts in some areas of social media utilization, with 96% of black Americans aged between 18 and 29 utilizing social networking of some kind.

Pew’s stats indicate blacks and whites are equally likely to own a cell phone, and the two populations have comparable rates of smartphone ownership. The divide between these two racial populations remain, however, when it comes to home broadband. Pew’s survey shows a 74% home broadband access for white Americans versus 62% of their black counterparts. That’s 12 points. Until that chasm is bridged, it remains critical that solutions hoping to effectively engage all populations offer smartphone-optimized consumer experiences on par with their desktop web solutions. The smartphone can only provide a leveling of the “high speed access gap” if the solutions offered consumers via their handheld devices are as compelling, convenient and dimensional as those offered to consumers accessing from their home computers. What advantage does smartphone accessibility offer if the access merely brings the consumer the opportunity to view static thumbnail images the detail of microfiche, or dynamic platforms impossible to navigate with even the most dexterous thumbs?

Pew released a different set of stats in May that found 15% of American adults do not use the Internet at all. Another 9% of adults use the Internet, but not within their homes. When asked why, 32% stated they found the consumer experience of the Internet frustrating. The barrier of consumer frustration, in fact, trumped lack of access and the expense of internet services combined.

Access is essential. But so is design. And consumer experience. If you need proof these things matter, just ask the White House and Department of Health about the tough lessons learned in rolling out the Affordable Care Plan. One of the most significant works of legislation of a generation, and it dangled perilously over potential ruin, months on end, largely due to web site design. Or web site under-design. That may be a simplified view, but make no mistake – the difference between success and failure, between access and alienation, between engagement and missed opportunity, between positive impact and wasted resources hinges, more often than not, on the technology that underpins the access point of the solution itself. And the consumer experience when the technology is activated.

The digital divide continues to disappear. And that’s a good thing. Its place on the endangered species list is welcome. And where barriers to access fade, opportunities to win and advance consumer experience compound and, potentially, flourish.

Dr. Dobro’s Debrief: Longevity in a Nutshell


In an earlier post I discussed the results of a study that touted the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Along with eating veggies, an additional 

way to help you live longer is to eat nuts. Like we tell our health coaching participants regularly, when you get the munchies reach for nuts instead of fatty snacks like chips or candy. 

A recent summary of two studies showed that increased nut consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases and death. The total study size was significant, 120,000 participants, as was the time period – participants answered questions about their diet at the beginning of the studies in the 1980s, and then every two to four years during 30 years of follow-up. Participants who ate nuts daily were 20% less likely to have died during the course of the study than those who avoided nuts.

According to the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School, tree nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts can lower your LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and contain many other healthy nutrients. Eating more nuts is associated with a significantly lower risk for cardiovascular disease, and death from cancer, heart disease and lung diseases.The researchers found that from those who had never eaten nuts to those who eat them seven days a week, the more frequently people ate nuts, the lower their risk of premature death. In fact, feel free to mix it up – there are lots of varieties of nuts you can choose, such as walnuts, almonds, peanuts and pistachios, among many others. Nuts have numerous benefits for your health.

So, go nuts!  Well, not really. Recommendations vary, but a healthy amount of nuts is generally described as “a handful a day.”

Dr. Jeff Dobro, Chief Medical Officer, RedBrick Health

Source: N Engl J Med2013 Nov 21;369(21):2001-11. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1307352.

Dr. Dobro’s Debrief: Eat Dinner Together to Keep Everyone’s BMI In-Check

Jeff DobroWith the new year upon us, undoubtedly many of us have made goals to improve our health in 2014. As a result, gym memberships are purchased, and new diets are tried in an effort to lose weight and improve our health. But what if I told you that new research shows that where you eat can also have a proven impact your BMI?

Typically, the majority of research and health advice focuses on what is being eaten and how the foods that we consume impact our health. That’s why a recent study on the influence of where families eat dinner caught my eye. The study of dinner rituals that correlate with child and adult BMI found that families who frequently eat dinner in the kitchen or dining room had significantly lower BMI (lower for both the adults and their children) compared to families who ate elsewhere (especially in front of the TV – no surprise.)

The study involved 190 parents and 148 children. BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is used as a screening tool to identify weight categories that may lead to health problems. Healthy BMI for adults 18 years and older is in the range of 18.6 to 24.9.

The study found significantly lower BMI measures in families where everyone participates in the dinner conversations and family members most often remain seated until everyone is finished with their meals. The practice of rituals such as these places emphasis on the social interactions as opposed to the food. In addition, within this environment the meal is often prepared in home, with you in control of the portions, ingredients and cooking method.

So make it a habit to gather regularly for dinner at the kitchen or dining room table, turn off the TV, and enjoy each other’s company. Your whole family will benefit.

Dr. Jeff Dobro, Chief Medical Officer, RedBrick Health

Source: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Oct 1. doi: 10.1002/oby.20629

Exercise as Payment – I’ll Bet You Ten Buck…Burpees It’s Real

As the world evolves, so does everything in it. Currency is no different. Over the last several decades, the standard form of payment has steadily transitioned from cash and checks, to credit and debit cards. Recently Bitcoin has been grabbing the headlines as a new form of currency that is starting to be accepted by the masses. Could exercise be next? Yes, you read that correctly. Is exercise a possible form of currency and payment?

The Value of Exercise

What is a push-up worth? How about a squat? The latter can now be concretely answered. To help promote the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the Moscow subway systems are now accepting exercise as a form of payment. 30 squats are worth a 30-ruble subway ride ticket. So is this just a marketing ploy, or could this really be a form of payment that could become a part of our everyday lives?

If doing an exercise really doesn’t seem like it should be worth any monetary value – this isn’t the first time exercise has been equated to having monetary value. In fact, there is a long history of just that. With rising health care costs, employers and other organizations have long incentivized people to exercise, eat healthier and pursue habits that lead to a healthier lifestyle.

While the approach is slightly different, the same basic economics exist – do x, get y. Do 30 squats, get a free ride ticket. Exercise at a gym 12 times a month, get $20 off your monthly membership dues. The only difference is instead of ‘getting paid’ to exercise, people can now exercise ‘to pay’. Maybe in the near future, you’ll be able to purchase goods and services with literally a little sweat equity.

Editors Note:

When watching the video, count how many people are smiling while they are ‘paying’ for their ticket. When was the last time you saw happy people paying to ride the subway? While the squats may be worth 30 rubles, their true value to the social wellbeing appears to be worth far more.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

Nov1_DiabetesThe candy is most likely gone. Halloween costumes have barely had time to start gathering dust in the closet. And the sounds of holiday ads and music are already filling our ears. But before we move on to baking cookies and doing our holiday shopping, the American Diabetes Association and other health and wellness organizations want us to focus on November, as it is National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Diabetes affects an estimated 26 million Americans, and that number is growing larger. While there have not been any new silver bullet solutions for diabetes since last November, research has continued to reinforce the value of physical activity in helping prevent diabetes, as well as a means to improve the lives of those already diagnosed.

A recent joint statement issued by the College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association found that combining physical activity and modest weight loss has been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in people who are at high risk of getting the disease.

The high-level findings are clear and time-tested:

- Most people with type 2 diabetes are not active, although regular physical activity may prevent or delay complications

- Most of the benefits of physical activity come from improving the way the body responds to the insulin it produces

- Programs that combine physical activity and modest weight loss have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in people who are at high risk disease of getting the disease

If you’ve read this far and are thinking, “good, but I don’t have diabetes”, you still need to pay attention. In addition to the 26 million in America diagnosed or living with the disease, another 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The risk factors for having diabetes increase if you are overweight or if you are physically active fewer than 3 times per week. Furthermore, you are at greater risk if you are 45 years of age or older. So what does that mean? Unless you are young with perfect nutritional habits, and have time to work out daily, you or someone you know is probably at risk for diabetes.

So maybe National Diabetes Awareness Month is a good time to get a 60-day head start on your New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s time to find a buddy and pledge to get moving.

Health & Wellness News: faces issues, Teens Smoking Cigars, ACA and the Impact on Hospitals, 20 Healthy Fall Meals – the Good the Bad & the Ugly
Tuesday marks the 20th day that the government-run health insurance websites have been up and running. Unfortunately, the numerous issues have made utilizing the sites difficult for both consumers and insurance providers. This article from CNN details some of the major issues that many are facing when attempting to utilize the government-run websites. 

light-bulbSmoking & Teens
A recent article appearing in the New York Times covered some unnerving facts discovered by the Center for Disease Control. According to the findings, 1 in 30 middle and high school kids as well as 1 in 12 high school seniors admit to smoking small cigars (or cigarillos) that are flavored to taste like candy or fruit. Cigarettes with candy or fruit flavoring has been banned since 2009 but cigars are not subject to the same restrictions.

GraphThe ACA Cause for Hospital Transformation & Concern
Hospitals are currently in a state of limbo, trying to determine how they must adapt to properly conform to the Affordable Care Act. USA Today reports that more than 35.1 million people were discharged from inpatient care at non-federal hospitals in 2010, in addition to 130 million ER visits and 100 million outpatient visits.  The fear many hospitals have is that the ACA will cause an additional flood or influx of high-use patients which will tax already overburdened medical professionals.

Fork20 Heart-Healthy Fall Meals
As the temperature drops, many American’s cravings for comfort foods begin to surface. This article from reminds American’s that high cholesterol is no reason to avoid your favorite fall foods. You’ll also find ways to use fall produce at it’s peak season.

Time to Weigh In: Do you believe that HealthCare.gove should have been better prepared for the influx of traffic that they would receive upon launch? What could they have done differently? Should candy flavored cigars be subject to the same laws at cigarettes? Do you think that hospitals should prepare for the worst when it comes to the ACA? What are your favorite fall meals?

Emerging Technology in Health Engagement

Emerging TechnologyIt is safe to say that the use of technology in wellness and health engagement has traditionally progressed at a more gradual pace than it has in other industries. However, over the last few years, numerous forward-thinking organizations have been redefining this type of human engagement through relentless innovation. The result? New advances and approaches that have created opportunities for employers to better reach and support their employees as they improve their wellbeing.

Emerging Technology

A study by Buck Consultants and WorldatWork looked at how emerging technology – specifically gamification, social networking and mobile technology – is being utilized in employer health management initiatives.  The following percentages of organizations were found to be currently incorporating various technologies into their wellness efforts.

  • 63% report using gamification (refers to games and contests, as well as game-like features incorporated into non-game situations)
  • 50% report using social networking (refers to a variety of technologies that support communications and connections between organizations, communities and individuals)
  • 36% report using mobile technology (refers to mobile apps and other interactions via a smartphone or tablet)

Making Health Engagement Mainstream

While adoption of emerging technology by employers is now just starting to pick up, these elements have been a part of our everyday lives as consumers for many years. Loyalty programs, social updates, automated reminders and mobile access are a normal part of how we manage our lives and we may not even think twice about how often we use them.

We realize that gamification, social elements or mobile access alone are not enough to improve engagement. However, it is a combination of all three elements, plus timely triggers, personalized choice and a fresh experience that are needed to help someone change their habits for the better.  As an industry, we need to continue to better understand the driving factors in a consumer’s life and then respond by continuing to innovate to help make engaging in their wellbeing simple, rewarding and accessible.

Stress Management: Why Employers Need to Face Stress Head-On & 18 Tips to Help You Get There

Don't StressHow many times have you uttered the words “I’m stressed” or heard them from a friend, family member or coworker? Let’s face it, we’re all stressed. Stress does not discriminate based on age or financial status, everyone is stressed about something.

A stressful life not only causes immediate symptoms but can have some long-lasting effects as well. In order to understand how to alleviate stress, it’s important to identify what is stressing people out and how it affects them.

What Are the Top Stressors For Americans Today?

The American Psychological Association recently conducted an in-depth study titled Stress in America. This study went on to explore Americans perception of their stress, stress by gender, the impact of stress, stress by generation, and stress by city.

Key findings include:

  • Only 19% of Americans describe their health care as good quality
  • 22% of Americans say their health care provider supports them in managing stress
  • Over 31% of people with high stress never discuss stress management with their health care provider
  • Millennials report 5.4 as their average stress level on a 10-point scale (National average is 4.9)
  • 72% report that their stress level has increased or stayed the same over the past five years
  • Only 37% of Americans feel that they’re doing a very good or excellent job of managing their stress
  • 66% believe their stress has a moderate, strong or very strong impact on their physical health
  • 31% of Americans say that a lack of willpower stands in the way of change

18 Tips for Reducing Daily Stress

The Huffington Post, Mayo Clinic, and Psychology Today have all provided scientifically validated methods for reducing stress. Below are some of the top tips to help you or your employees reduce stress.

Huffington Post: 23 Scientifically Backed Ways To Reduce Stress Right Now

  • Try Progressive Relaxation
  • Try Some Light Yoga
  • Meditate
  • Listen To Music
  • Laugh It Off
  • Try Guided Visualization

Mayo Clinic: Stress Relievers: Tips to Tame Stress

  • Get Active
  • Connect with Others
  • Assert Yourself
  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Keep a Journal
  • Seek Counseling

Psychology Today: 17 Psychology Experts Share Their Best Stress Relief Tips

  • Go Outside
  • Take A Deep Breath
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
  • Slow Down
  • Listen To Yourself
  • Change Your Reactions

Applying These Tips in a Workplace Setting

Your employees may find that some of the tips above are more up their alley than others. Encourage them to find 1-2 new stress relievers over the next 4-6 weeks, commit to doing them and keep a log of their level of stress after they complete the activity. You may be surprised how taking  a small amount of time out of each day to relax and decompress can have a dramatic positive impact.

HERO Forum – Three Key Themes

HERO ForumThe annual HERO Forum was held last week in Orlando, Florida. HERO (Health Enhancement Research Organization) is a national leader in the creation of Employee Health Management best practices and research. Their annual gathering brings together leading employers, health plans and health management-focused organizations.

There were several themes that emerged throughout the conference, none of which should be very surprising. While all of these topics have been discussed to varying degrees in the past, they have emerged as the prevailing hot-button discussions at the HERO Forum this year.

  • Affordable Care Act – With major changes looming, concerns over the associated unknown implications was prominent.  At a macro level, the ‘pay or play’ dilemma is progressing faster than many originally expected, forcing organizations to have to start thinking about what to do sooner than they had planned. At a micro level, questions arose on how having to offer a ‘Reasonable Alternative Standard’ would impact incentive designs. With loose definitions, there is concern on being compliant, while still meeting their program needs.
  • Incentive Design – With incentives playing such a large role in health and wellness programs, organizations of all shapes and sizes are interested in deploying the most effective and cost-efficient design to spur engagement. A keynote from Kevin Volpp on evidence-based reward models anchored the growing trend of deploying innovative ‘smart’ incentive designs that leverage behavioral economics evidence rather than the traditional incentive models.
  • Behavior Change – To support these next-generation incentive models, programs and approaches that are designed to support habit formation or spur action are needed. To address this, RedBrick Health’s own Eric Zimmerman along with Amy Bloomquist of Carlson presented a ‘how-to’ workshop on behavior design within an employer setting.  Their presentation showed how by breaking behaviors into small steps, applying choice architecture, and using adaptive analytics, new behavior design techniques can drive lifestyle and condition management interventions.

These trends will continue to have a direct impact on employer wellness and health management initiatives. We here at the Health Innovation Blog are committed to continue to share our insights on how to best leverage these trends to create healthier populations.


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