BOSTON, June 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- After decades of relying primarily on medical care to improve population health globally, new research from Deloitte describes promising examples that portend a shift towards a community-based approach that will improve population health, prevention, and well-being.
The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and the Deloitte Center for Government Insights interviewed more than a dozen innovators that are using new approaches to engage people through communities – both virtual and geographic. The research found that harnessing the power of social networks and technology can enable smart health communities (SHCs) to empower individuals to manage their own health.
The new findings are revealed in the Deloitte report titled: Smart Health Communities and the Future of Health.
"We are learning more and more about how important social connection, social determinants, and people's environment can be in influencing how healthy and well they are," said Sarah Thomas, managing director, Deloitte Services, and Center For Health Solutions. "There is huge potential to address opportunities in these areas, sometimes through technology – which can reduce the cost and create the data we need to find opportunities – but also through behavioral economics and design elements."
What is a smart health community?
SHCs are entities that operate largely outside of traditional health care systems to encourage disease prevention within a community.
While the fundamentals of SHCs are not new, technological advances combined with new understandings of health behavioral change are helping enable next-generation SHCs that are much more sophisticated, interconnected and influential.
These advanced SHCs are typically characterized by five key elements:
- 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 improve health outcomes.
- They create new and innovative ecosystems.
"If you put all of the elements of smart health communities together you will see a dramatic impact on how people approach their health and wellbeing going forward," said Thomas. "The future of health care will blur traditional boundaries, with SHCs becoming more integrated into our daily lives."
Forces driving adoption
SHCs are likely taking hold because most health outcomes are caused by factors outside of health care systems, including socioeconomic status, eating and exercise habits, and where people live. Globally, five of the ten leading causes of death are due to conditions related to unhealthy behaviors (Steven A. Schroeder's "We can do better—Improving the health of the American people," The New England Journal of Medicine 379, No. 12, 2007). Community-driven networks – both in person and online – can influence peoples' eating habits, physical activity, obesity rates, anxiety levels, and overall happiness.
The ubiquitous adoption of the internet and mobile technologies has caused individuals to participate in powerful virtual communities, including social media networks. These advances have enabled SHCs to scale while also becoming more personalized.
At the same time, data shared by members, including genetic and medical data, are helping detect and prevent disease at an individual level as well as assist in disease surveillance of population health.
Stakeholders in new SHC ecosystems
SHCs are creating innovative ecosystems of public and private entities. For example, government agencies can help by creating pilot and payment models that foster cost-effective SHCs through public health insurance programs. They can also establish data-sharing agreements to analyze and share data on population needs with other players in the SHC ecosystem.
On the private side, health systems, care givers, life sciences companies, and players like technology companies and retailers could participate in SHCs as part of their digital and consumer engagement strategies.
"All stakeholders in health care – including governments, health plans, providers, life sciences companies and new entrants – can learn and build from the SHC concept," added Thomas. "These ecosystems can measure success by their ability to establish consumer loyalty, improve wellness behaviors, increase access and reduce costs."
To read all the findings from the Smart Health Communities and the Future of Health report, please visit Deloitte Insights.
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