Creatively Destructing Health: Insights from the mHealth Summit 2013

By Gillian Christie, Shahnaz Radjy

Creative destruction—the process by which disruptive innovation replaces existing economic order – has yet to occur in the US health industry, according to Steven Krein, co-founder and CEO of StartUp Health. Over the next ten years, Krein contends that health in the US will undergo a creative destruction process based on four transformers:

  1. Health Revolution: The introduction of new health legislation including The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offers potential for revolutionizing the health care industry by expanding access to services including providing 25 million more Americans with health coverage by 2019.
  2. Acceleration of Chronic Diseases and Aging: An aging workforce and prevalence of chronic diseases provides foundations for creative destruction, as out of the box solutions are required to address these challenges. At present, 92% of older Americans have at least one chronic condition, and 77% suffer from at least two.
  3. Mobile Technologies: Mobile technologies including the cell phone have propelled the development of ubiquitous health care and established the conditions for creatively destructing the health care industry.
  4. Golden Age of Entrepreneurship: The technological funding landscape founded upon crowdfunding and online platforms allow for greater access to capital, angel investors and expertise when compared to traditional venture capital models. This is a final transformer underlying creative destruction.

Creative destruction in health was extensively explored at the mHealth Summit (December 9-11, 2013 near Washington, DC) that convened 460 speakers and 5,000 attendees. The Summit aimed to investigate the existing mobile health ecosystem and the future of health technology. Three overarching conclusions were identified on technology’s role to adopt such an approach and improve long-term health outcomes.

Firstly, mobile applications have the potential to improve individual and population health measures and metrics when combined with behavioral science strategies. With over 40,000 health related mobile apps on the US iTunes Store, 50% of apps being downloaded more than 500 times, and just 5 apps are responsible for 15% of total downloads, technology must be combined with other behavioral approaches for sustainable impact at scale over the next ten years.

Secondly, wearable tracking devices that allow health measurement provide a basis for creative destruction by allowing users to stay physically active, engaged and motivated – whether for positive encouragement or competition. A recent study conducted by the Consumers’ Electronics Association (CEA) determined that wearable device ownership has increased three-fold since last year with 18 to 34 year olds representing the greatest demographic. The ability for individuals to track their own health provides a basis for creatively destructing health in the US.

Finally, games for improving health that encourage healthy behaviors allow for the potential to creatively destruct health. For instance, Booze Allen Hamilton recently developed Pier Pressure, a game designed for navy sailors to highlight alcohol’s impact on productivity and work performance, and Ayogo focuses on games targeting children to help adherence to prescribed lifestyle activities including physical activity in the context of fighting diabetes.

As a component of the Commission on Health Promotion and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases in Working Age Americans, the Vitality Institute in collaboration with the Institute for the Future is developing a technology map for high impact health interventions in the workplace. Using the power of mobile technology, we hope to further discussions on technology’s ability to improve health outcomes over the next ten years when combined with holistic and complementary approaches. We encourage you to stay tuned and join the conversation @VitalityInst.

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