A New Approach To Chronic Disease
Marc Andreessen, the Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur, recently told Inc.’s Kara Swisher that “healthcare will eat the economy” if we don’t invest in software to change it. He’s not wrong. Our country is on an unsustainable track to spend 20% of GDP on healthcare by 2025.
The human costs cannot be ignored either. About 40% all adults in the United States — 117 million people — have one or more chronic health condition, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Over 80 million have pre-diabetes and over 70 million have hypertension, a condition that often leads to more serious chronic diseases.
The market realizes the opportunity. A recent Rock Health report shows that there has already been $3.5 billion invested in 188 digital health companies halfway through the year– a record both for the amount invested and the number of companies funded.
Digital health is on the rise because of the promise it holds to effectively treat serious chronic conditions at scale.
However, there’s something missing: an understanding that chronic diseases are complex and that multiple approaches need to be coordinated at once to truly transform an individual’s health.
Let me explain. In the thousands of cases we’ve seen of individuals struggling with chronic diseases, it’s rare that a person is dealing with a single disease state. They usually have multiple conditions and symptoms that span both mental and physical aspects. For instance, 43% of peoplewith depression are obese; obese people are 55% more likely to depressed. While it would be foolish to suggest direct causality, it’s clear that factors of one disease often exacerbate the other, creating a vicious cycle.
These are multifactorial diseases, and everyone’s conditions are different.
How you care for someone therefore depends not just on his or her diagnoses, but more importantly on understanding the individual.
What’s driving her to make a change? What motivates him? What habits does she have that need to be broken or reinforced? What deeply rooted psychological barriers are keeping him from achieving his health goals?
These are the questions we have to understand before we can begin chipping away at complex chronic conditions.
I’d venture to say that in most cases, the solution to chronic disease is at least 80% behavioral science.
There’s increasing research in books like How Not To Die, that finds that 15 of the leading causes of premature death in the United States can be reversed by nutritional and lifestyle changes.
Leading With The Truth
At Vida, all of our health coaches and therapists are experts in behavior change and knowledgeable in specific areas — whether it’s nutrition, weight loss, fitness, diabetes, depression, or stress management.
While technology powers the Vida experience, we always lead with our coaches and the relationships they forge with our clients. This isn’t a clunky AI interface. A consumer interacts with a real human coach when you need him or her the most.
But it’s not just the human touch that defines our approach. It’s the courage to get to the truth leveraging the combination of digital therapeutics, machine learning and human coaching.
Our coaches realize that the root cause of each individual’s health problem is seldom addressed. Our healthcare system tends to treat symptoms and prescribe medications, but it often ignores the underlying problems that comprise a chronic disease.
Without the truth, it is impossible to overcome.
Doctors don’t always get at the inner truth given how little time they’re able to spend face-to-face with a patient. The average primary care doctor appointment is 8–12 minutes (by no fault of the physician — our healthcare system has incentivized cramming in patients in 11–15 minutes intervals and required that doctors spend more and more time on paperwork).
Furthermore, according to a survey from ZocDoc, people are often more honest and willing to disclose their more embarrassing health habits to people like their hairstylist or their fitness coaches over their general practitioner. This is even more true for millennials, who are 45% more likely to confide in beauty or fitness professional. It’s not hard to see that a personal health coach can serve as a more relatable confidante while also having the background and skills needed to improve underlying health conditions.
Vida combines a trust-based, human approach with AI and evidenced-based clinical programs to help individuals overcome chronic disease once and for all.
Our approach creates outcomes at scale by leveraging digital therapeutics — a category that is seeing enormously positive outcomes for individuals struggling with chronic disease.
Digital therapeutics, for us, starts with expert, compassionate health coaching as the foundation. Then we match each client to proven clinical programs like diabetes prevention or cognitive behavioral therapy based on your unique health conditions. Machine learning allows us to personalize each individual’s experience over time.
Health transformation occurs through this seamless combination of coaching, technology and clinical validation.
Health Outcomes Matter
What do I mean by transformative? Let me introduce you to Jenny.
Jenny is a 49-year old mother from Wisconsin with a family history of diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. In June 2015, she was managing three chronic conditions: diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. She didn’t want to keep taking all the medications her doctor prescribed. The expense and hassle had become overwhelming.
Jenny signed up with Vida looking for a better solution. She was matched with a personal coach to help her manage her diabetes in-between doctor visits. After 11 months, Jenny was 70 pounds lighter, lowered her blood sugar and blood pressure, and was taken off all medications by her doctor.
What made the difference for Jenny, who had tried for years to overcome her chronic diseases? This is what Jenny says:
By getting to know “me,” my Vida Coach guided me through a new lifestyle. She provides me with stress relief and meditation techniques, fitness options and healthy food alternatives. She cheers for my accomplishments and provides reinforcement during difficult situations.
Further, Vida was easy to use and convenient. Her Vida Coach was always available via messaging and video, answering questions quickly, and providing tips and encouragement.
This is just one success story of thousands. You can see more transformational health stories here. The bottom line is the approach works.
We recently published a study with UCSF to analyze data from 1,012 participants using Vida with BMI of 25 or higher.
The results show that across a broad population of individuals:
- 75% of active participants lost an average of 3.2% total body weight ranging from 3–33% of their body weight
- 29% of participants lost an average of 9.5% of their body weight.
- Of the 112 participants with high blood pressure, 86% of those with stage two reversed to stage 1.
- 76% with stage 1 reversed to pre-hypertension.
- 49% of hypertension participants reduced their hypertension by one stage.
Read the full published clinical study here.
These are not the kind of outcomes that happen by accident. To help individuals overcome their chronic conditions, we carefully combine the human touch with evidence-based clinical programs and a technology-first delivery.
We have to help individuals overcome, reverse, and avoid diseases in the first place if we want to truly make a dent in the health care problems that plague our country. Let’s take a difficult and bold approach at getting to the underlying causes of chronic condition. Let’s get to the truth. Together we can eradicate chronic disease.
Join us and learn about all of the individuals who have transformed their health with Vida.