Three digital tools to keep you healthy and reduce public health costs


Forbes recently ran an article on the costs (rising) or medical care for baby boomers. One of the costliest aspects of health care if chronic disease…

Forecasters say the number of Boomers with multiple chronic diseases will quadruple by 2030. Note that chronic conditions account for nearly 75% of total healthcare spending. Also sobering: it costs, on average, up to 7x more to treat a patient with multiple chronic conditions than one with a single condition.


The good news / bad news is that to lower the cost much of the responsibility will be shifted to the patient. It’s unfortunate to think of individuals (especially ones who are sick) being saddled with these costs but it does provide incentives to try to get or keep healthy. The article introduces a few tech tools to help keep patients healthy. Think of it as an early Christmas shopping list for your parents or to give to your kids!

  • Activity and nutrition tracking could help stem the obesity epidemic. A recent Pew survey found that 68% of adults 50 to 64 track their weight, diet, exercise routine or other health indicators, although not necessarily online. Companies like Jawbone* and FitBit have introduced intuitive and accurate activity tracking tools that are being adopted rapidly. In 2013, the number of steps taken by FitBit users reached 2.4 trillion – roughly the distance from the Earth to Saturn – up from 47 billion in 2011. MyFitnessPal*, a calorie-counting app that is growing users at a 50% annual rate, today has 65 million people registered; together they have lost over 100 million pounds.
  • Telemedicine and advanced sensor technology can improve management of chronic care patients. Baby Boomers want to remain independent for as long as possible. A recent AARP study suggests that 90% want to stay in their homes as they grow older; 82% would prefer to age in place even after they need daily assistance. Digital health technology will help make that possible. A 2010 study conducted at Tufts Medical Center found that the cost of four days of in-hospital heart monitoring (~$25,000) could be reduced by up to 72% through the use of telemedicine and remote monitoring. Savings from using services like Doctor on Demand ($40 per visit) or Teladoc* for regular visits and consultations can be substantial as well.
  • Cost transparency tools can meaningfully address system-wide financial pressures. Today, the price and quality of care can vary greatly by location. An analysis in the California Bay Area found prices for a CT scan to vary by a factor of 16, and knee arthroscopy by a factor of 10. As aging adults assume increasing responsibility for healthcare costs, they will embrace tools like those developed by Change Healthcare, Castlight Health and ClearCost Health that provide objective cost data to make better, more informed care decisions and save money for both payers and themselves.

I am a compulsive FitBit user. (My goal is 10 miles a day, which I make most days.) If you are or know a compulsive tech-inspired exerciser, you will enjoy this article from David Sedaris on his life with the FitBit.