Healthcare

5 Ways Technology Is Democratizing Healthcare

Millennials will change who we think about and deliver healthcare.
5 Ways Technology Is Democratizing Healthcare
Image credit: Guido Mieth | Getty Images
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Economists, politicians and social workers have been concerned about the aging Baby Boomer demographic for years. How long will they live? Will they have enough for retirement? What will healthcare under Medicare look like? But the current aging population crisis does not hold a candle to Millennials, the biggest generation since the Boomers. Projected to live over 100 years, this generation will have higher expectations for care and will test the U.S. healthcare system like never before.

Luckily, the healthcare landscape is changing, with its nucleus shifting from hospitals and medical specialists to in-home solutions. Telehealth, for example, is projected to be a $343 million industry by 2020, according to a report by information and analytics firm IHS. There are also advancements in the "mHealth," or health care supported by mobile phones and next generation startups that are using technology to get a deeper look inside the body.

One of the companies making huge advancements in the consumer empowerment of healthcare is Klarismo, which uses MRI scans to turn your body into an interactive experience through 3D body scan images. In the throws of health technologies, Marcus Foster, founder and CEO, recently outlined how tech will democratize the future of consumer healthcare.

1. Changing the healthcare mindset.

As the advancements made in healthcare via technological advancement continue to solve new and bigger problems, the entire landscape of health care is experiencing a culture shift. Everyone wants to be healthy.

Foster gives this analogy: “Traditionally, healthcare has always played defense. The entire industry tries to minimize negative outcomes. But in tech, we are used to playing offense. We are optimizing for the one touchdown. The future of the digital health industry is to get the defense (traditional healthcare) to switch teams to the offense (tech) for a more preemptive mindset.”

Related: What's Driving the Personalization of Healthcare?

2. Biohacking.

Biohacking, also known as DIY biology, is a trending social movement where individuals and organizations experiment to hack into our own human biology. Dave Asprey is particularly well known in the biohacking community for his Bulletproof Coffee. As you would imagine, this is also popular with the Silicon Valley crowd, which has labs like BioCurious popping up, "the world's first hackerspace for biology" located in the Valley.

“We all walk around inside our bodies all day, yet we have very little knowledge of what’s actually going on inside of them,” said Foster. Biohacking is a new outgrowth of the investigation into how our bodies work and how to optimize them. The technology being created by that community is already making an impact.

Related: How to Become a Healthcare Innovator

3. Health tech is not just in wearables.

When Fitbit hit the market in 2008, people were addicted to the idea that they could so closely track their fitness. Since then, the market has become saturated with the latest wearables. However, that data is somewhat superficial.

“Wearables like fitness trackers have given people a very easy way to collect a lot of data about themselves. How useful some of that data is from a health perspective or even in terms of accuracy may be debatable, but regardless has created an appetite amongst consumers to measure and quantify more aspects of their lives,” says Foster.

As technologies become increasingly advanced, this trend will only get bigger and more devices will become available that allow us to track certain aspects of our lives.

Most changes to our bodies take a relatively long time to manifest themselves, which makes it difficult psychologically to connect behavior and reward. Quantifying our daily lives creates more short-term reward systems that encourage positive behaviors. Other technologies, like Klarismo’s MRI scanning technology, allow consumers to pinpoint where they lost fat or gained muscle and have a total online profile of their progress.

4. The inner body epiphany.

Many people are under the impression that visible fat is the most unhealthy and the first sign of poor health. This is the fat that lies just beneath the skin and causes stretch marks or cellulite. On the contrary, visceral fat, which is fat that encompasses vital organs deep in the body is most dangerous. Technology now allows people to see their inner body health.

“Known to cause insulin resistance and contribute to risk for Type 2 Diabetes, this is the fat we need to be analyzing to stay healthy,” says Foster. “Through MRI technology we can identify percentages of visceral fat, giving the consumer a picture of their internal makeup and what they really need to focus on.”

The profile Klarismo is able to create based on MRI scans sounds like Google Maps for the body -- a virtual demonstration of what’s happening internally. Through analysis of organs, muscles, tissues and fat, it refocuses them on the most important parts of their health, versus simply aesthetics.

Related: 5 Trends Reinventing Healthcare

5. Proactive healthcare.

The WHO estimates that 75 percent of the total world population live with at least one chronic condition and 50 percent with two or more. As such, the traditional healthcare model of "fix it when it's broken" is not effective.

With the advent of health technology that consumers can use without engaging with medical professionals, healthcare is starting in the home and the office, not the waiting room.

It used to be very binary, you were either "healthy" or "sick." But now people are starting to think about health more as a spectrum and the boundaries are more fluid, explains Foster. “Instead of aiming to feel 'good enough' or 'not sick', people are starting to ask why they shouldn't feel as good as possible or amazing all the time.”