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Escaping from the Destructive World of Fractured Health

Escaping from the Destructive World of Fractured Health

Everyday more and more of us are purchasing and using the latest technology to care for our and our family's health. We go jogging and record and measure our physical activity with Fitbits or Apple watches. We record and assess our diet with apps. We measure our heart rate and pulse with more apps and devices. We are even measuring and assessing our sleep. We want to quantify, measure and control our own health.

Digital Health Beyond Fitness

We are not only using apps and devices when we're healthy, but we are now using digital health apps when we're not healthy as well. If we have diabetes, we may be using apps and devices to measure and store our blood glucose levels. Maybe we even remotely share this information with our physician. Or measure and share heart rhythm information with our clinician.

[Related: Why I Exercise, Especially When I am Way Too Busy to Exercise]

We don’t just measure, track and analyze for ourselves, we also assist our children or elderly parents.

Our clinicians are moving to digital health tools as well, asking us to log into websites to access our health records and visit information and even to make appointment.

Amazing, you may think, healthcare is finally going digital! In many ways, it is. We are seizing control of many aspects of our health and clinicians are dabbling in innovation too.

Growing Pains and Crushed Expectations of Health Innovation

Yet even while we are rejoicing in our new healthcare freedom, we sense something has gone terribly wrong along the way. We have not fully achieved expected advantages, and physicians are not convinced the technology is optimized. Further, healthcare freedom seems incredibly stressful and exhausting. With exploding app development, we are frantically scrambling, running ourselves ragged trying to keep up with app after app, website after website. In the non-digital world, we are still dragging feverish kids into our cars in the early morning or evening in furtive escapes from pressure-cooker jobs to drive to doctor's offices for physical exams from which we will have no home-available record or data. We are still speaking with nurses in hurried tones during lunch hours about crippling back pain that has us lying on the office floor. We could have avoided it with specific exercises, but didn’t know this. We are still running from health crisis to health crisis draining ourselves physically or mentally. Why? Why do we have to scramble to get healthy?

The Disturbing World of Fractured Health

Because all the Oz-like digital advances have come with heavy baggage, they have greatly exacerbated an already broken healthcare system. We are crumbling under the strain of Fractured Health.

[Related: Calling All Women: The Disparity in Researchers Dedicated to Women's Health]

Living in a world of Fractured Health is exhausting and stressful. It is inefficient and ineffective. Even the concept of health is misunderstood. This is not a new phenomenon. Back in 2006, I was quoted in Business Week saying, “The system is designed for crisis management rather than for fostering optimal health.” Since then, the problem has only gotten worse.

Redefining Health

To fix our situation, we need to start at the beginning: with the definition of health. We think of health as the state without disease. The natural state. We are either healthy or unhealthy. But this is too simplistic a notion. Health is dynamic and a continuum, not black and white. From year to year, from month to month, even day to day, our health fluctuates. Some days we are more healthy, other days less healthy. The key to our health is that what we do on one day affects how healthy we are a month or a year or several years later (excluding some conditions or baseline states with genetic predisposition).

Facing our Health Challenges

Thus, our first challenge to overcome is in how we think about health. Health doesn’t happen to us out of the blue. It is often due to an accumulation of environmental factors, many of which we can control. We already know this, or we would not be using digital apps and devices to help ourselves. (Clearly, genetic factors and accidental traumas are outside our control.) The whole healthcare system should be designed around this reality.

Our second challenge is that we have no one place where we can address our health issues. Healthcare is siloed to an almost crippling extent. This design is inefficient, ineffective and costly. We have known for decades that siloes raise the cost of our care, and in key settings like cancer are piloting methods as well as ways in the community to address them. When we are healthy (in our current interpretation of the word), we don't interact with our healthcare system to any substantial extent. Maybe we have an annual physical. More often we don't even do that.

After our health breaks downs, we involve a variety of companies, many with conflicting priorities. This could include a healthcare provider, an insurer, a manufacturer of therapies (maybe of more than one therapy such as a device maker, a medication developer, a nutritionist, a physical therapist, etc). Most of these are separate interactions because of the siloed nature of healthcare.

This is the Fractured Health world we now live in.

Joining a New World of Total Health

Imagine a holistic world where companies collaborated with each other and policy makers to cut costs and improve speed and effectiveness by addressing a continuum of healthcare with the objective of health from birth to death. Imagine a single point of interaction with all stakeholders working with you, supporting you, to have the best health you could throughout your life. Imagine a radical, innovative world of Total Health.

Through innovation solutions developed through multi-industry collaborative, mission-focused action, we can work together to make the world healthier.

[Related: Calling All Women: The Disparity in Researchers Dedicated to Women's Health]


Candice M Hughes, PhD, MBA, is a strategy and management consultant for pharmaceutical/biotech firms via her firm Hughes BioPharma Advisers and is a serial entrepreneur. Her newest venture is a mission-focused action tank, the Total Health Consortium. She is author of the Small Business Rocket Fuel series. @candicemhughes Image:, 6868377, alexraths.

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