Customer service of all kinds has been undergoing a digital transformation over the past several years, moving from one-size-fits-all approaches to more consumer-oriented, personalized strategies. One huge example of this is in the realm of online-banking, where banking smartphone apps and video tellers have almost eradicated the need to go to brick-and-mortar banks (you can read more about the technological disruption going on in the banking industry here
Healthcare is another rapidly growing field in IoT that I’ve been following closely for some time. As a former board chair for two of Austin’s premier hospitals, I am all too familiar with the healthcare industry’s challenges which have become human and societal challenges. At a $3T spend in the U.S., the healthcare industry is in crisis with rising costs, rising obesity, age and chronic health issues, and a focus on “break-fix” versus prevention.
The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital
The potential for technology to improve health and quality of life is just starting to be realized, and we’re seeing a lot of new, exciting applications pop up. This week Wellsmith Inc, an up-and-coming provider of digital health and wellness solutions, announced the launch of a new digital care platform for the treatment of chronic lifestyle diseases. The solution seeks to improve the health of patients with preventable diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Heart Failure. Today I wanted to talk a bit about the solution and offer my take on it. What I find so interesting is that Wellsmith is doing what I haven’t seen anyone do successfully yet- aligning the consumer, healthcare business and technology.
How does it work?
The Wellsmith platform’s mission is to better connect caregivers and patients and target the chronic diseases that arise from unhealthy lifestyle choices. The platform uses a very consumer-oriented approach—each patient is prescribed a personalized Digital Care Plan, which includes metrics for medications, activities, weight loss, and more. Patients engage with the platform via a smartphone app and are outfitted with various Bluetooth sensors and wearables to monitor their vitals. The app provides a variety of services, such as reminders to take medication, congratulations on meeting goals, and physical activity or weight.
The second component of the platform is the Care Team portal, which delivers all the patient information being gathered in real time to care providers. According to Wellsmith, this lets medical teams see how their patients are faring “in the wild” once they leave the walls of the doctor’s office. The Care Team portal allows medical teams to connect with patients while they make lifestyle choices about food, and exercise, and offer helpful suggestions. This also allows healthcare providers to advise their patients when they might require an in-person doctor’s appointment. I imagine this will cut down on the amount of “unnecessary” precautionary appointments made by patients, in addition to making sure that patients receive the care they need when they need it.
Early results are positive
Wellsmith Care Team Portal
The launch of the Wellsmith platform comes on the heels of two years of pilots with Cone Health, a North Carolina not-for-profit network of healthcare providers. These trials targeted patients with Type 2 Diabetes, deploying the digital platform to over 350 people and gathering over 1,000 sensor data points per patient. Wellsmith is claiming impressive results from these preliminary trials—a 24% increase in physical activity, a medication compliance rate of 74% (compared to the national average of less than 50%), weight loss (on average patients lost one pound per week), and an average 1 point drop in A1C levels, which are used to diagnose both Type 1 and 2 Diabetes and are monitored to determine how well a patient is managing the disease. Wellsmith says that in the past two months, patients using the platform have walked a total of 57 million steps and lost 400 cumulative pounds via Wellsmith’s digital care plans. The human impact of these results alone is truly wonderful, but if that doesn’t speak loudly enough, it also has the potential to save a whole lot of money. Wellsmith and Cone Health project that $8,000 in medical costs could be saved every year, for every patient, with every 1 point drop in A1C. That is truly huge.
Wellsmith Glucose Monitoring
All in all, this looks to be a great example of what’s possible with the growing field of healthcare technology and aligning the consumer and healthcare providers, and it looks like it has the potential to save a lot of lives and money in the long run. Chronic lifestyle diseases put an enormous burden on healthcare systems and affect those systems' ability to serve their communities. Technology like Wellsmith’s platform allows for a much more consumer-oriented approach in treating these diseases, and it’s truly impressive how much more effective this strategy seems to be compared to traditional back-and-forth doctor’s visits. This solution also addresses prevention, not just “break-fix”, which makes this very unique.
This is the way of the future if you ask me. If the various other healthcare systems can't get on board and modernize, they will likely become obsolete. This also calls into question the value of Fitbit Inc. who is delivering the consumer goods, but not clinical outcomes. Wellsmith Inc. clearly sees the writing on the wall and is devising innovative solutions to make sure it's at the forefront of the new age of digital health. Consider me impressed.