To transform our sick care system into a true healthcare system, let digital health lead the way

by | Jan 17, 2023 | Last updated Jan 19, 2023

Brennende Wunderkerze

The past few years have brought immense, surreal challenges to our healthcare system, and have exposed the brilliance of modern medicine along with its vulnerabilities. As we have slowly emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, our society has learned many important lessons about health and healthcare. One of those lessons is that “wellness” is not a trend, it is a critical part of sustaining our overall physical and mental health and longevity. 

As I look ahead to 2023 and beyond, I’m excited by signs that our society is making real progress in these areas: I see more educated and connected consumers, a greater embrace of the mind-body connection, growing access to mental wellness resources, and ultimately, a population that is ready, willing and able to do more to keep itself out of our “sickcare” system. 

What that means for leaders in the digital health space is that huge opportunities to step up to the plate and lead business, society, and policy on critical health issues are coming for us. Here’s how I know what’s ahead:  

The World’s Most Influential Leaders are Paying Attention

Consumers are leading the way on the adoption of sustainable, proactive prevention, and the world’s business and policy leaders are watching. The agenda for the World Economic Forum at Davos, which I am attending this week, is full of sessions that speak directly to our work: Mental health, obesity, nutrition, the link between mind and body, mental wellness in the workplace, and unburdening our healthcare system are topics taking up a lot of precious space (literally and figuratively) this year, and I am so thrilled that the most influential leaders of our time are engaging in these important issues en masse. We will need their partnership if we are to truly revolutionize our systems and and reach the people who need health support the most. 

Promising New Consumer Data

Noom’s annual States of Healthy Behaviors Report delivered surprising and validating insights this year. We surveyed respondents around the world and asked them about how healthy they felt, what their definition of “health” was, and where they think the healthiest people in the world live. 

Although I was pleased to see that many respondents reported feeling healthy themselves, very few of the respondents felt that their own nation was the healthiest place to live. This “grass is greener” thinking about health tells me that despite recent progress, our societies still aren’t doing enough to support healthy living. Underscoring this, a majority of global respondents said they want greater government support for healthier living and cited improved access to mental healthcare as the most crucial initiative they want their governments to lean into. 

Our survey also found that the internet is the second leading source of health information next to doctors – and in some countries, doctors beat out the web by a very thin margin. This tells me, despite trust gains in healthcare during Covid-19, that access, efficiency, and inclusion remain questionable in the healthcare system. As the leader of a digital healthcare company, I have mixed feelings about this and would posit two thoughts in response: First, if people are increasingly looking outside of certified medical experts for answers, sources that are backed by science have never been more important – and education and access to those sources is critical. Second, if we are to help bridge the gap between consumers and their doctors, unburdening our healthcare systems by getting ourselves healthier as a collective at baseline seems like a great place to start. 

In the US, we were also able to survey active Noom users and compare their results to non-Noom users, and I am thrilled – but not surprised – by the results: Noom users in the US are over twice as likely to understand the nutritional and caloric value of their food as non-Noom users; They are 17% more likely to believe that small changes in their daily habits can have big impacts on getting healthier; And they cite an overall more balanced attitude toward their health. When asked “what health means to you,” Noom users said that good habits, regular exercise, feeling happy, and achieving good sleep were their top definitions of good health, while non-Noom users said that being physically fit and regular exercise were the top two ways in which they define health. Overall, this data definitively demonstrates that Noom helps users think about their well-being in more holistic – and therefore more sustainable – ways than those who go it alone. 

What’s On The Horizon

Digital health companies have been masterful at scaling to meet the needs of consumers, using science that used to be limited to medical professionals, and helping to shrink the barriers between healthcare practitioners and patients. We have done so much – and we also have a long way to go. As I think about how our space is going to continue to grow, this is what is top of mind for me:

First: Precision well-being accelerated during the pandemic and continues to grow more precise. Consumers “own” their data in every sense of the word, which means both users and their healthcare providers are becoming more familiar with how to interpret and utilize it. This should, in theory, welcome legacy healthcare leaders to collaborate with consumers in creating value based healthcare services… But how do we get there?

Second: As productivity remains top of mind for leaders, employer benefits that tap into the mind-body connection should be a critical component of every CEO’s workforce strategy. Moreover, by sharing health education and behavior change tools with employees, the employers of every size that offer this access will also be doing so for entire families and communities. 

The Future of Health Is Here – If We Embrace Collaboration

My conviction that consumer-driven healthcare is going to continue to completely reframe how we think about healthcare has never been stronger. Noom’s success for our users is proof that taking a preventative approach to health and wellness is not only possible, it is also scalable. That being said, insurance companies, pharma, and employers are still the dominant forces in our healthcare system – so we need their partnership to evolve our systems and empower end users. If creating a truly democratized healthcare – not sickcare – system is our goal, the time to start is now.