A new age of smart healthcare

By, Chris Bailey, Partner and Head of Consulting, Mercer Marsh Benefits

    • Organisations who invest in the health of their workforce can see over 40% improvement in the cost of lost productivity.[1]
    • Creating a cohesive brand and shared culture can empower individuals to make healthy choices.
    • We are helping employers of all sizes to start their health journey.

According to the 3:4:50 model put forward by the Oxford Health Alliance, three controllable behaviours (nutrition, exercise, and smoking) impact four chronic non-communicable diseases (cancer, diabetes, lung disease, and cardiovascular disease) that are responsible for more than 50 per cent of deaths worldwide.[2]

Advancements in technology and the onset of personalised healthcare are rapidly changing the way we treat and manage these conditions. Techniques that sound closer to science fiction than fact, such as genetic fingerprinting, reveal that an individual’s genetic makeup may suggest a much more targeted treatment regime for organ transplants or some diseases, such as cancer, than previously possible.

Many of these techniques are in the early stages of development and the associated cost is currently astronomical, but personalised healthcare is also having a more immediate impact on the everyday management of chronic conditions. The use of health trackers and health apps by employees acting as better-informed consumers of healthcare is a major growth area.

By 2020, 70 per cent of the world's population are predicted to be using smartphones capable of monitoring key biometrics and lifestyle data.[3] These new technologies mean that GP practices may develop into smart care teams that get an almost constant influx of real-time data on patients’ chronic conditions, such as blood sugar levels of diabetics or blood pressure levels of hypertensive people. Smart technologies now allow for remote management of such patients and, with the pace of the developments, we expect the capabilities to scale.

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently made a pledge to provide full access to medical records and NHS services to a quarter of all UK smartphone users within the next year. He said that healthcare needed to catch up with technologies used to “book taxis, shop, bank or store photos”, and envisioned being able to plug patients into condition-specific mobile apps from organisations such as Diabetes UK. Patients will be able to access test results and appointment histories and update their records with information from wearable devices that monitor activity, heart rates, and other biometrics.[4]

The benefits to the individuals and to society are obvious. These technologies afford much more frequent fine-tuning of patients’ therapy, better management of conditions, and a reduction in complications, all of which, in turn, increases an individual’s wellbeing and, potentially, life expectancy.

The same smart technologies allow online access to GPs so that individuals can consult with doctors within minutes, get quick answers to medical questions, and enable quick diagnosis and care for conditions at earlier stages. All of this is creating a brave new world in which employees understand their health and wellbeing better than ever before and can be better supported to manage their health issues and return to work sooner.

Mercer can help employers take an integrated approach to improving health and wellbeing in the workplace. Email us for further information and advice on mercer.uk@mercer.com

[1]  Britain’s Healthiest Company research (Reilly Associates WPAI methodology).

[2]  Oxford Health Alliance. www.oxha.org/ - www.oxha.org/images/journal-articles/jb2009.pdf, accessed 23 October 2015.

[3] Ericsson. “Ericsson Mobility Report 2015,” available at http://www.ericsson.com/mobility-report, accessed 23 October 2015.

[4] Department of Health and National Information Board. “Health Secretary outlines vision for use of technology across NHS,” available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/health-secretary-outlines-vision-for-use-of-technology-across-nhs, accessed 23 October 2015.

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