On the [Health Tech] Fit Grid: Towards Preventative and Chronic Care
05.31.2016
Travis Leissner in Accelerator, Health & Wellness, Healthcare, Healthcare Accelerators, Technology

Image © Gensler

This post is part of a series on the rise of healthcare accelerators, and fostering collaborative medicine through innovation.

I don’t mean to brag, but you could say that I’m the perfect private insurance customer: single, healthy, and fit. That is, until recently.

I’ve always been a light consumer of health care services. I’m a professional architect with a strong background in Health and Wellness projects. As such, my own wellbeing is constantly top of mind for me. Two years ago, I moved out of a suburban neighborhood into an urban dwelling. This change supported the lifestyle I lead – I walk and bike as much as possible on weekends, and I can easily walk to my gym, the grocery store and down to easily accessible walking and bike trails. That said, I wasn’t prepared with the changes I would face with the onset of Year 50. I had to face the inevitable myth of my own invincibility.

With my recent birthday, my healthcare needs, experiences and expectations started evolving. I’ve now found myself diagnosed with arthritis and C6 spinal issues, and despite my professional expertise in healthcare design, I found myself opting to deal with my medical issues without visiting a hospital or urgent care center. I chose physical therapy over surgery.

This wasn’t necessarily a decision I took lightly. As a healthcare architect, I’m not at all intimidated by hospitals or clinics. However, I much prefer to utilize alternate forms of retail healthcare as much as possible. No longer do we as healthcare consumers feel limited by our healthcare options. Now we are far more than just patients – we’re customers, and we can choose the experience that works best for us. We personalize our own healthcare plan and curate our own experience. For me, that means that as my course of Physical Therapy treatments winds down, I have to start implementing my lessons learned during my own personal workouts. Although I plan to continue consulting with my orthopedic physician and physical therapist, I will ultimately maintain a highly independent role in my treatment.

In many ways, this is the future of healthcare – we are personalizing our own care. Most health systems are focused on population health management, and preventive care is becoming increasingly important. At Gensler, we encourage active lifestyles by hosting fitness competitions. Fitbit has become a household term due to the explosive popularity of fitness trackers. However, tracking fitness online is intrinsically reliant on personal honesty, and fitness trackers aren’t always accurate. Recently, I was walking with a colleague between meetings; with his hands full, he realized he wasn’t swinging his arms as he walked. Therefore, his fitness tracker wasn’t logging his steps. We are all increasingly plugged into a technology grid that charts our health and wellness, but there’s room for improvement.

Since I’ve been a light consumer of healthcare services over the years while paying higher premiums, I believe insurance companies and healthcare systems should provide paybacks to those of us who actively take preventive care measures. It’s simply good customer service. However, if online self-reporting and fitness trackers are unreliable, how could the healthcare industry implement such a concept? Could health insurers develop bio-metric technology in the same way auto insurers use tracking devices to monitor driving habits? We are already seeing the advent of "healthcare accelerators" such as Houston's TMCx or Chicago's MATTER. These programs spur technological innovation for some of healthcare's biggest challenges, and they are expanding around the globe at an exponential rate. They may play a key role in closing the gap between population health management and personalized care.

I think the answer lies in this emerging technology grid. Those of us who live in an urban environment can be very active – we walk, run and bike whether it’s for fun, to run errands or get to work. I try my utmost to avoid using my car over the weekends, and I’m not alone in this endeavor. With the rapid advancement of technology, isn’t it timely to find a way to accurately account for and value our preventive care measures? We have powerful, intelligent mobile devices with social apps and GPS that easily chart proximity, and we can foresee implanted chips that measure biometrics in our near future.

I imagine a time when urban centers are supported with health and wellness technology infrastructure – a “fit grid” – that encourages active lifestyles. This fit grid could accurately track population health measures for insurance companies and health systems, and it could empower citizens to take charge of their health. Ultimately, the retailization of healthcare and the expansion of access points to the healthcare system have encouraged us towards the best possible goal: taking charge of our own health. As designers, this is a fascinating new opportunity for us to explore.

G. Travis Leissner, AIA, has over 26 years of experience in master planning and architectural project development nationally and globally. He has participated on assignments ranging from complex academic medical centers to university health centers, surgical centers, clinics and medical office buildings. Travis has knowledge of the healthcare market and delivery system, including care models reshaping the industry. In addition, Travis has worked on healthcare facilities including acute care, surgery, outpatient care, women’s and children’s, cancer, psychiatric and medical offices. Contact him at travis_leissner@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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