HEALTH AND WELLBEING IN 2018
How is technology changing people’s approach to wellbeing? What will be the role of doctors in the future? And how is medicine being personalised? Canvas8 explore the evolving relationship we have with our health.
With troves of medical information at their fingertips and access to countless health apps and wearables, more people are feeling empowered to not only to manage their wellbeing, but to take an active part in personalising their own care based on genetic testing and a better understanding of bodily functions. Experts predict this will gradually redefine the industry, moving it away from reactive care and towards a more preventative and holistic approach.
Dr. Trudi Edginton, a clinical psychologist and lecturer, who shares her view on the future of healthcare:
The more technology is available, the more we’ll see the rise in precision-based healthcare, including the use of genetics. There will be more options for each individual, and companies will offer a range of remedies, therapies and different types of medicine. It will be a two- or three-tiered healthcare system that will allow people to explore all alternatives. There could be a number of different treatments that work for some but not for others. It’s about tailoring treatments to best fit the individual.
I expect to see a rise in social prescriptions. Medical professionals might prescribe exercise, an art course, or a course in learning to respond to and encourage the link between mental and physical health. Universities, healthcare providers, big tech companies, pharmaceutical firms, and start-ups are starting to create partnerships to really harness this potential. They’re introducing schemes to get people more engaged, like game theory and rewards-based schemes. Health insurance companies are rewarding their clients if they reach a certain weight or level of fitness. Gyms are actually the companies doing most of the work, they’re linking with other companies and working together to foster proactive health, which is really influential.
There will be more information-sharing among health professionals and a more integrated sense of care. It’ll be a soft, collaborative approach to health. You could be wearing technology that monitors your blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose and then you’d be contacted if things are detected. Telemedicine will be really important in terms of providing greater access to doctors outside of working hours, providing consultations by phone, Skype, or apps.
The mind/body literature has been helpful in influencing some of the mindfulness-based interventions. Talking about the link between mind and body was considered almost a weakness before. Now, it’s considered quite scientific and therefore up for conversation. It’s more evidence-based. There’s a real focus on reducing stigma in mental health.
Mansal Denton, the founder of Nootropedia, shares his opinion on the future of supplements in healthcare:
We’re going to see true healthcare flourish, versus what we have now, which is sick care. It’s getting people who are healthy to feel even better. It’s being pushed by devices, which are becoming more sophisticated, and also the dissemination of free medical information, which makes self-study and research and a lot easier.
In two to three years, people will have more responsibility in their conversations with their doctors, instead of being told what to do. They’ll be able to research and discuss specific ailments and be more informed. However, the information is often contradictory and it can be challenging to discern what’s real and what’s not. It can be overwhelming and confusing.
Nootropics are nothing new – supplements have been around a while – but the industry in a sense is new. Instead of taking a regular multivitamin, I can find out specifically what I might be deficient in, what I have problems with genetically, and I’ll go based on that. The Neurohacker Collective is looking to bring human optimisation to a wider audience in a meaningful way.
Broad strokes aren’t working. People are realising that they have to be very inwardly focused when it comes to their health and how they react to things. It’s going to create more opportunities for the placebo effect. People might believe that a certain supplement or lifestyle is better for them when there is no real change if you look at bio-markers. You have to balance objective data with the subjective feeling. My job with Nootropedia is to make sure they have all the information and distil what’s important for them and help them to strip away the noise.
An example of this personalisation is the app BrainThrive. The New York based start-up encourages people to take up a physical activity that is proven to help their symptoms and improve their conditions, the app was developed in response to the preference of many Americans to reach for medication rather than make a lifestyle change.
The app was created by neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, who noticed the soothing effect workouts had on her psyche and sought to research the potential of exercise to alleviate mental and physical illnesses. BrainThrive 'prescribes' physical activity to a person according to their condition and its severity – for example, it may encourage aerobic activity to help with the lasting effects of chemotherapy, instruct PTSD sufferers to take up yoga, and motivate kids with ADHD to start cycling to feel calmer and relaxed. The app also helps people who are experiencing age-related mental deterioration by providing them with tips and exercise routines.
Nearly three in five Americans take a prescription medication of some kind, with more than 15% taking more than five each day. “Lots of different medications get started for reasons that are never supported by evidence,” says cardiologist Rita Redberg, editor in chief of JAMA Internal Medicine. “In general, we like the idea of taking a pill a lot better than non-drug measures, such as improved eating habits or exercise.” Overmedication is a life-threatening issue for American seniors; 15% suffer from a medication problem, which is not surprising considering that some are treated with more than 20 daily pills. So, encouraging people to exercise may improve health while reducing people's reliance on drugs.
Ilana Jaqueline, who manages Patient Advocacy at FDNA, adds that technology is a way to get patients to monitor their health more often, more accurately. In an era of experimentation the information gained changes everything, in a couple of years, home testing technology will become the everyday norm.
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