Why I’m Optimistic About the Future of Value-Based Care
When it comes to improving population health, there’s one trend that really gives me hope—empowering individuals with education, information, and insights to take better control of their health. We can see this in action via the consumerization of health and wellness.
I know I personally find a new podcast about something health-related nearly every week. And consumerism in healthcare is only growing. For example, about 50% of U.S. consumers report that wellness is a top priority in their daily lives, an increase from 42% in 2020. And more than 65 million Americans currently use a wearable device like an activity tracker or smartwatch, with health and wellness features as a top purchase consideration.
The collective demand for information reveals that people are invested in their health in every aspect of their lives, not just at provider visits or when they’re filling a prescription. It makes sense: we all want to feel better and live longer—and our healthcare system should help us to do so.
Given this context, the ongoing shift toward value-based care (VBC) feels deeply important. In the prevailing fee-for-service model, providers are compensated for patient visits, which are typically due to acute health issues. The goal of VBC is to align incentives across the healthcare system to improve health outcomes and reduce costs, often through proactive and preventative measures. In a VBC model, diving into the everyday aspects of patient health and finding personalized ways to improve it not only makes sense, but is also encouraged.
The increased access to information and health metrics also plays a key role. For example, as little as five years ago, you had to spend a night at a sleep lab covered in electrodes at an average cost of $2000 to understand your sleep stages. Or if you wanted to regularly monitor your heart rate, you had to use a chest strap. Now, technology makes it easy to track factors like sleep or heart rate in a passive manner. More importantly, the data is also readily available to individuals who want a better understanding of their overall health.
Providers Need More Than a Moment
When most of us think about “healthcare,” we envision doctor offices, medical procedures, and prescriptions. But when we take a step back to consider our holistic health, it’s so much more. The truth is that 80% of healthcare happens outside the four walls of a healthcare system.
Consider how often you go to the doctor. If you’re relatively healthy, it’s probably a few times a year. Even those managing chronic conditions are rarely seeing a provider on a weekly or monthly basis. As a result, healthcare providers usually get just a snapshot of patients’ daily habits and health. Much of the information they collect reflects a moment in time, and an intake of behaviors that are subject to recall bias.
VBC changes the focus by taking into account everyday health along with long-term trends, and shifting to a preventative mindset. The model incentivizes providers to help patients proactively manage chronic disease, preventing conditions from escalating and even sometimes triggering remission.1
Today, we have information that can help fill in the gaps between doctor visits, identifying behaviors and trends that impact everyday health. The additional context offers a more complete picture of patient health, and can yield more personalized guidance from providers. The easy access to health data also empowers patients to better understand and take ownership of their health in those everyday moments outside of the doctor’s office.
Everyday Health Data Connects the Dots
Imagine if providers could tap into insights derived from the other 80% of patient healthcare. This is where everyday health data collected by wearables, apps, and OTC medical devices allows the promises of VBC to become a reality. Consider that half of the adults with health apps or wearables use them daily. And 57% of wearable owners believe the data would be helpful when talking with their healthcare providers.
For example, a patient may come into a provider’s office with a question about an Irregular Heart Rhythm notification from their Fitbit device and their provider may discover a previously unknown heart condition, like atrial fibrillation (AFib). Or a patient and provider may review a patient’s activity trends together and decide to increase their movement to help decrease their chronic disease risk.
Such data empowers patients to understand more about their health and talk to providers about potential issues or trends. Providers can use that information to inform their assessment, personalize their guidance, and even ask patients to monitor specific aspects of their health. In doing so, patients can receive more of the “how to” for improving their health and then take specific action. And a VBC model aligns the incentives for all stakeholders toward doing just that.
The Why That Drives Everything
Patients’ increasing interest in their health and wellness is both universal and deeply personal. We want to be able to ride bikes with our kids when they’re little, and be there to snuggle our grandchildren when we’re older.
On the provider side, the drive to improve patient health is personal as well. Most of the healthcare professionals I’ve had the pleasure to meet got into their field because they wanted to help people improve their health and lives. However, the fee-for-service model has created obstacles to fulfilling these aims.
VBC provides a new approach, giving providers and health plans the incentives to focus on the bigger picture, proactively improving both short- and long-term patient health. With 36% of providers drawing some portion of their compensation from VBC, we’re still in the early days of this journey—but we’ve got a good start. I’m optimistic that VBC combined with the power of everyday health data has the potential to radically change patient outcomes and experiences for the better.
Over the next several months, I’ll be exploring the many ways that consumer-based wearables can support VBC and empower providers and patients along the way. In the meantime, check out our whitepaper, Consumer Wearables in Value-Based Care, to learn more about the benefits and potential of everyday health data in a VBC model.