Unlocking ‘Healthspan’ With Technology Can Help People Live Longer


Michael Meucci, President and CEO, Arcadia.

A combination of medical, technological and social advancements has significantly increased human longevity (lifespan) over the past 100 years. However, a recent McKinsey study shows that the proportion of people living today in “moderate” and “poor” health remains unchanged. The facts point to a global, societal problem—but also an opportunity to unlock “healthspan,” where people live longer, healthier lives.

Ethical Responsibility To Evolve The Approach To Health Management

Society has an ethical responsibility to help everyone live long, healthy lives. To get there, we must take a more proactive approach to healthcare management. Healthcare is complex and multifaceted, with great care born from a series of “good decisions” made by primary care physicians (PCPs), specialists, care managers and, importantly, patients.

As the healthcare ecosystem changes and patients’ needs shift, how we make these “good decisions” must also evolve. At the same time, healthcare is ripe for innovation, and the confluence of pressures, including rising costs, burnout, labor shortages and consumerism, can catalyze transformative change.

Though many areas of healthcare could benefit from technology, enabling longer and healthier lives is a massive undertaking that the healthcare industry must address. Data shows that healthier people tend to have higher quality of life, are higher earners and are more productive contributors to society.

Solving the longevity crisis will allow us to reduce overall healthcare costs and improve the financial sustainability of our healthcare ecosystem—a critical imperative given projections that the Medicare trust fund will run out of money to pay full benefits beginning in 2036.

New Wave Of Health Tech Adoption And The Rise Of Consumerism

In the past decade, Meaningful Use, the electronic health record (EHR) incentive program run by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, spurred the adoption of digital tools in healthcare, ultimately driving the broad uptake of EHRs. Today, we are witnessing a new wave of health technology adoption, with the added benefit of massive digital healthcare data sets primed for AI.

Healthcare organizations are now more adept at using technology, and providers are more comfortable adopting new tools that democratize access to trusted information. At the same time, a new generation of clinicians emerged that inherently embraced technology. These dynamics lead many, including myself, to feel bullish about adopting new tools.

Today’s consumers are also more tech-savvy. The Covid-19 pandemic made people more open to telehealth. Thanks to social media, virtual care and other consumer apps, patients are open to leveraging technology to enhance their healthcare and improve how they engage with providers. With the rise of technology, consumer expectations have also risen, but there is still work to do to fully activate consumers in health.

Co-Piloting The Healthcare Journey

Healthcare organizations and consumers are more open to technology, making now the time to deploy the latest tools that harness the potential of big data, advanced analytics and generative AI. Taken together, these tools will improve access to care, close care gaps and address the longevity dilemma.

Addressing The Primary Care Problem

As access to PCPs grows scarce, we must think broadly about where and how we deliver care, including at home and virtually. For example, we can treat conditions like pneumonia, chronic heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease via at-home care, which often costs less and is favored by patients.

Improving access to and delivery of proactive primary care is paramount, and virtual-first access for patient encounters can remove unnecessary friction. Digital care also streamlines workflows and increases efficiencies, in addition to reducing administrative burden and enhancing provider satisfaction, which are especially important as workforce shortages and burnout leave many providers unable to care for all of their patients.

Holistic Patient Engagement

To increase “healthspan,” people must also take ownership of their physical health. Think about it—people spend years fixating on and managing their credit scores, yet few make it to their annual physical.

Imagine an app like Credit Karma for your health that provides real-time health coaching. Outreach to patients spurs real change, as evidenced by vaccination and screening programs, and by frequently engaging patients in ways that work for them, providers can enable more holistic care and help maintain quality of life as people age.

Take diabetes as an example—one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. Many people with diabetes live long, healthy lives by managing the disease with treatment plans that go beyond just a glucose monitor. These plans consider diet, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors. Moreover, holistic patient engagement can help providers catch people in good health before their health declines. However, to achieve true holistic patient engagement, we must improve interoperability and data liquidity.

Deploying AI

AI has already begun to show its promise in healthcare, helping streamline providers’ workflows and boost productivity. Strategically using AI will be fundamental to solving the longevity crisis—both at the point of care and in the back office.

With AI, providers can better understand the populations they care for and make sure that outreach is delivered in the channel and language that a patient prefers, ultimately tailoring outreach to each patient. Consequently, AI will enable providers to deliver personalized, holistic care more easily.

Unlocking “healthspan” is one of our generation’s most promising opportunities and obligations. Though the current healthcare ecosystem is reactive and hospital-focused, dedicating more resources to caring for the sick than to servicing the healthy, the opportunity for the public and private sectors to collaborate with health system leaders to drive greater health outcomes, embrace technology and empower the healthcare workforce to deliver better care in service of improved “healthspan” is great.

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