How can digital health and the quantified self help consumers and GPs?
Old habits are hard to kick – none more so than poor exercise and a bad diet. In this article Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Medical Director of Nuffield Health Wellbeing, uses the insight from the 100,000 health assessments the business conducts each year to reveal that while people take on board how to improve their health most revert back to old, bad ways after three months.
Our evidence indicates that people are becoming more and more aware of the need to take personal responsibility for their general health and wellbeing. We know from the research we conducted with the London School of Economics that 44% of the population experience anxiety symptoms once a week – this is up by 11% since 2008.
Peoples’ lives have become more stressful and medication is often not the appropriate response. In fact, our research showed GPs are 46 times more likely to prescribe medication than explore alternative options such as exercise. This research also asked what the reasons were for the anxiety and the top three responses were money, family and work issues. Sadly, only 1% of GPs recommended exercise as a way to alleviate symptoms.
As digital technology advances, it will become much easier for people to monitor their overall, day-to-day health – a phrase coined in America for this very revolution is self-quantification. This is especially important as people are living longer with conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Those living with long-term illnesses will have the knowledge they need right at the push of a button to manage their symptoms. This will also have some excellent benefits to GPs as they are able to access the medical information they need far easier enabling them to diagnose and treat their patients more efficiently.
As for the future, I believe it will become the norm to pool information from different sources into one device, creating a detailed portrait of a person’s overall health. It is important to remember that this technological development will also revolutionise the public sector, as it stands the Government is working to free up access for people to view their NHS health records. The current aim is for 95% of patients to have access by next April. As Medical Director of Nuffield Health Wellbeing, I believe this will lead to people living healthier because they and their doctor will be able monitor their health more easily and take quick action if or when it is needed.