The Wellness Paradigm - Health Clubs And Fitness Brands Should Be Mindful As New Models Emerge To Provide Solutions

The scholar Daniel Boorstin observed, "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." Boorstin, a renowned historian and author who wrote, The Genius of American Politics, Democracy and Its Discontents, and The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson, was right. Sometimes overcoming challenges requires letting go of assumptions. As he put it, "If we think we know something, then we face an obstacle to innovation." Boy was he ever right. When you look at the state of health quality in the industiralized world, especially in the US, it serves as a good example of what Boorstin is talking about.

Don't believe me ? The chief  medical officer of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Otis Brawley, has a book out, How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America, that makes this case in full. Brawley tells of doctors who select treatment based on payment they will receive, rather than on demonstrated scientific results; hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that seek out patients to treat even if they are not actually ill (but as long as their insurance will pay); a public primed to swallow the latest pill, no matter the cost; and rising healthcare costs for unnecessary—and often unproven—treatments that we all pay for. Here are a few choice excerpts (keep in mind that Otis is a highly regarded Doctor):

"I have seen enough to conclude that no incident of failure in American medicine should be dismissed as an aberration. Failure is the system. America does not have a health-care system. We have a sick-care system,  and "system" is not an accurate word to describe it because "system" denotes organization. Too often, helping the patient isn't the point. Economic incentives can dictate that the patient be ground up as expensively as possible with the goal of maximizing the cut of every practitioner who gets involved."

I think similar problems extend into the fitness and wellness industries, although they are not as sigificant financially. There are health clubs and fitness brands whose main focus is still trying to "sell" memberships convincing people that they'll look great naked or in a swimsuit this summer. Attrition rates for health clubs hover around 40% or higher (that means 40% of people quit each year), while obesity rates soar. The majority of professionals working in fitness do not maintain general certifications and many industry groups fight industry standards. Why ? For the same reasons that exist in the sick care delivery system.

The causes of this problem are "pigs at the trough". The main interest for many is in maintaining the status quo and not doing things differently, so long as the same people can make a buck. Watch the video clip from Dr. Brawley below and please tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what do you think? Do you think there are too many in the sick care and the fitness business that are more interested in making a buck than helping people get well and healthier ? I think that is true for some; let's change it. Here's the good news, some people are and the sick care system, health clubs And fitness brands should keep theior eyes on new emerging models that will provide better solutions. Keep your eyes out for my upcoming post on WellnessFX to prove the point.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

What Does Google Health's Failure Have To Do With Watergate ?

I like good movies for a lot of reasons but often for the memorable quotes you get from time to time. I enjoy sharing a line from an iconic film at a cocktail party when referencing the latest topic Du jour. In All The President's Men, Deep Throat, the government informant who spoke in riddles and metaphors in response to Woodward and Bernstein's questions recounted, "follow the money". Following the money is often good advice and is one of those quotes that I love to use. It explains a lot of things.

So what does Google's recent announcement that it is discontinuing Google Health have to do with Watergate ? Just "Follow The Money".

I a March 2011 post "Where Is Google Health In The Evolution Of Wellness ?" I talked about the promise of technology in evolving health care and fitness into wellness. Interestingly I received a number of communications following the post from people who seemed to know Google Health was being shuttered. But why would this promising idea get the shaft ? In a recent Technology Review article , How A Broken Medical System Killed Google Health , correspondent David Talbot wrote:

At the end of this year, Google Health will flat line. The service couldn't encourage many people to import or analyze their health data, and experts say its untimely death is, in many ways, an extension of U.S. health-care providers' failure to share data across institutions, or make it easy for patients to obtain it.

David's tag line to the article said it best, "Google would have had to fix a balkanized U.S. health-care system to make the service catch on." He's right and I know it first hand.

I recall my treatment for colon cancer and repeated and unsuccessful attempts to get my group of five physicians to utilize Google Health. Despite Quest Diagnostics providing access to my diagnostic records electronically for free on Google Health, not one my physicians knew about it or cared to use it. Instead I would have to suffer duplicate tests, hauling records around and harassing people to fax results. Even more interesting was a strategic session with leaders in the Medical Fitness field. Not one of the participants knew what Google Health was. Amazing but why ? Why would a system that offered real solutions to a broken system be so unfamiliar to so many ? Follow the Money.

The failing of and lack of awareness of solutions like Google Health in either the "Sick Care" system or the "Wellness" prevention system highlights the obvious: there is NO money in improving health outcomes. As Bryce William's recent article in Fast Company "There Is No Such Thing As A Health Care Consumer" points out about the failure of Google Health:

...the underlying cause is that there is no such thing as a consumer in the American health care system today. A consumer is someone who uses personal dollars to buy goods and services for his or her own use. In our health care system, the users of medical services are, of course, individuals. But users don’t pay the largest share of costs for these services. Employers, the government, and health insurance companies do. So while people may be highly concerned about quality medical care, most are not motivated to manage costs.
 With that fundamental understanding, it’s easy to see why Google Health failed.

And that is the problem, its up to consumers, who have no real incentive to improve their health, and its up to delivery systems that have no incentive to deliver it. So when I ask What does Google Health's Failure Have To Do With Watergate, you might just "follow the money".

So tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, why do you think Google Health failed ? Why has the U.S. and world's populations become less healthy while the cost of care sky-rockets amid a push for healthier lifestyles by the fitness industry. Is it a broken system ?

Technology and Rising Cost of Sick Care Creating New Opportunities

For all the wrangling and complaining about health care reform, an important fact is rarely included in the discourse. The one thing that could really reform health care is people living healthier lives.

As much as three quarters of U.S. health care costs are preventable. With most of the expense going to treat a few chronic diseases that are closely linked to behavior, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

The good news is a “pay for prevention” industry is emerging, offering organizations ways to reward workers with cash or reduced premiums for exercising more and eating wisely. Some of the early competitors in the space are RedBrick Health, Tangerine Wellness and Virgin HealthMiles.

At the center of this emerging business opportunity is technology. Smaller and more powerful devices and the ubiquity of the Internet are converging to deliver new solutions for the user that can impact behavior and outcomes.

In a recent NYT article, Sean Forbes, president of Virgin HealthMiles said, “We’re trying to create the good-driver discount for health. One reason that’s been so difficult is there’s never been a way to really measure things before, but that is changing because of technology.” Watch Kyle Rolfing, CEO of RedBrick Health explain the opportunity these new business models offer.