Industries are catching on to the inefficiency of data silos. Health care is its own silo. Expanded connectivity and the exponential growth of technology are enabling smart health communities, which could offer a modern take on community-based well-being and disease prevention.
Five core components industry and government stakeholders can consider in the shift to health and well-being
Expanded connectivity and the exponential growth of technology are enabling smart health communities (SHC), which could offer a modern take on community-based well-being and disease prevention.
HISTORICALLY, health care was delivered in the community. Physicians made house calls; birth and death happened inside the home. As the modern hospital developed, health care migrated inside its walls. Meanwhile, the concept of health became increasingly medicalized, and separated from people�s daily lives.
One example of an SHC is the YMCA�s decades-old National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which uses the community to encourage individuals to proactively manage their weight and exercise with a coach in a group setting based at a local YMCA. While successful, these programs have had limited reach since they are tied to brick-and-mortarlocations and require individuals to participate in person.
THE FIVE KEY ELEMENTS OF A SMART HEALTH COMMUNITY
Digital technologies have the potential to significantly bring these programs to scalethus increasingtheir impact.The widespread use of smartphones�which are prevalent even in lower-income communities�can increase the potential for virtual programs to scale widely. Apps on these phones can incorporate concepts from the behavioral sciences, such as nudges and gamification, to help people stay on track with their health care goals.
The recently relaunched WW International (formerly Weight Watchers International), which now uses a technology platform to create a virtual community focused on weight loss and wellness and is informed by the science of behavior change, is an example of an SHC that is leveraging technology effectively.
A significant body of research shows that about 80 percent of health outcomes are caused by factors unrelated to the medical system. Our eating and exercise habits, socioeconomic status, and where we live have a greater impact on health outcomes than health care.
The pendulum is now swinging back to the community. Nontraditional players, including public, nonprofit, and commercial enterprises are establishing �communities� focused on prevention and well-being. These communities can be geographically based local initiatives, virtual communities with a global presence, or hybrids of the two.
The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and the Deloitte Center for Government Insights interviewed over a dozen leaders from prevention and well-being initiatives outside of our traditional medical system to learn about the characteristics that are essential to their mission. These interviews have contributed to the development of a concept we call smart health communities (SHCs), which we define as containing some or all the following core features:
They empower individuals to proactively manage their health and well-being;
They foster a sense of community and belonging;
They use digital technology and behavioral science;
They use data to meaningfully improve outcomes; and
They create new and innovative ecosystems.
The dramatic changes reshaping health care today are driven in part by the intersection of Metcalfe�s Law and Moore�s Law.
Metcalfe�s Law describes how the value of a network escalates dramatically as membership increases. Moore�s Law describes how computing power doubles roughly every two years. In tandem, these two phenomena will likely allow SHCs to grow and become more sophisticated, interconnected, and influential over time.