By Dan Stanek
When we think about how we define “health,” increasing numbers of people are defining it well beyond “not being sick.” Our healthcare system, however, is built to treat us when we’re sick instead of keeping us well.
Start-ups, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists recognized the missed opportunity, and consumers found the endless wealth of wellness knowledge. The result is a $4.5 trillion global wellness market.
While segments of the market are seeking wellness solutions like cupping or acupuncture, most are taking a much more fundamental view on wellness. According to a recent study1, the most important attributes associated with physical and emotional well-being were “getting enough sleep” and “managing my stress”. Certainly, sleep, stress, fitness, diet/nutrition, and weight management are issues that are top of mind with wellness seekers. Most doctors would agree that these items are essential to “health,” but few are actively engaging in discussions on these topics with patients, despite strong interest and willingness to pay from patients.
Why aren’t doctors doing more to focus on wellness? It starts with the healthcare and insurance systems, of course, but doctors incorporating more wellness thinking into their offerings could do wonders for people’s health and, in turn, improve the system that’s holding wellness back.
Most US healthcare providers are reliant on “payers” (insurance) as their key revenue mechanism. While insurance may not cover fundamental wellness services, many do not even consider that consumers are paying out of pocket for these services elsewhere. Just ask the thousands of health clubs, fitness coaches, Nutrisystems, WW (WeightWatchers), and myriad other providers taking advantage of consumer needs in core wellness areas. From an experience standpoint, the back and forth of dealing with insurance approvals, rejections and coverage rules, makes a subscription or membership model a more compelling alternative to those who can afford it.
Another key barrier to wellness discussions is simply time. Productivity pressures and administrative and reporting burdens place a major obstacle in the way of having meaningful conversations with patients about the totality of their health status.
However, in many cases, primary care doctors are simply not comfortable talking about wellness-related issues and treatments, because they are often not trained in those areas. They feel that there are specialists who can help patients, but that means a separate trip and the insurance dance to see that specialist.
So, today’s consumer is forced to fend for themselves in a wellness wilderness, ushering in a whole industry of Self Care. Online sources like WebMD, countless blogs, articles and product providers offer consumers information and home remedy solutions and non-prescription, natural and lifestyle means of alleviating health concerns. Who is offering this advice? Are they even real? What are their credentials? No one knows. One’s primary care doctor would be a strong, credible source of reliable information and advice if they were accessible and equipped to incorporate it into their health discussions and treatment plans.
Wearables, mobile apps, and other health monitoring products allow for a constant feed of information. With the new release of the interoperability rule, this will be of particular importance to both healthcare providers and patients for the foreseeable future. Forward thinking medical practitioners and health providers can incorporate that information into a complete picture of one’s “health” and allow for personalized recommendations. But few practices encourage such devices or would even know how to use the information gathered. This can be a wonderful opportunity to develop solutions for a powerful new approach. This on-going, day to day relationship with the patient/consumer’s health and lifestyle puts the practitioner in the position of being a health maintenance partner vs. an episodic person mechanic.
Some alternatives are starting to take form like Parsley Health. Parsley’s holistic wellness care is available in beautiful, relaxing spaces that look nothing like a doctor’s office or from the comfort of patients’ homes via telemedicine. Can you remember a time when you were able to spend 75 minutes with your primary care physician? Patients first visit to Parsley includes a 75-minute doctor’s visit that covers everything from a physical exam to discussions around lifestyle, diet and recommended next steps. That interview serves as the beginning of a collaborative relationship between patient and caregiver.
New models and options to incorporate wellness services into everyday healthcare provides an opportunity for healthcare providers to move away from “sick care” to truly embrace a “whole person” perspective to health. Innovation is needed to create new delivery models, technology ecosystems and payment models to support a broader definition of what healthcare really means to consumers. Our challenge to healthcare providers is this: think more like today’s consumers who just want to be well and think more like a wellness entrepreneur. Your patients should always feel like they’re in their comfort zone, so it’s time to step out of yours.
Would you like to talk to us about opportunities for your brand within health & wellness? Contact Dan Stanek at firstname.lastname@example.org.