Why doctors are so afraid of apples

Old Rotten AppleAs implied in An Apple a Day… the fruit and the smartphone can both keep doctors away, and that has many of them terrified for good reason.

Those at the top of the healthcare mountain especially fear the Healthcare MiniTrends, because they know 429 of the original Fortune 500 companies (1955) are no longer in business today. And they’re looking down at a new class of hungry competitors who are already exploiting these minitrends.

Let’s look at just two of the trends: (1) the new focus on wellness, and (2) new smartphone uses.

Wellness and Functional Medicine

The apple represents wellness programs that can prevent the need for medical care, and that’s a threat to doctors who learned a lot about diagnosing and treating disease but little about how to prevent it. They’d better adapt quickly or lose business and income.

Insurance companies are already extending the reach of their wellness programs to help avoid illness and associated costs. That’s because Obamacare now prevents them from cherry-picking the healthy and most profitable customers and cutting people off once their care gets too expensive. The insurers first developed those programs for their large corporate clients so they could improve worker productivity while lowering medical costs, so offering them to individuals is a no-brainer.

The wellness programs are one way to encourage healthier lifestyle decisions. It’s really just part of a bigger aim – to redefine the purpose of health insurance and replace prepaid medical care with protection against catastrophic illness & injury. The hope is to give consumers more skin in the game, to help them find the best value in medical care, and to extend competition to care providers too.

That’s another reason doctors are scared. And it’s why so many are starting to embrace natural, holistic, and functional medicine and developing skills or partnerships in nutrition, sleep, meditation, acupuncture, and other practices that were once known as Alternative medicine and are increasingly known as Complementary or Integrative medicine. Apple Health

The Smartphone Physical & Telehealth

Already, consumers can get a comprehensive, clinically relevant well-patient checkup using only smartphone-based devices, and the data is immediately readable and fully uploadable to an electronic health record.

As Dr. Eric Topol says, smartphones help democratize medicine by promoting competition, empowering patients, helping them schedule telehealth calls, office visits to a concierge clinic, or house calls. A physician assistant or nurse practitioner can replace general medical functions, as can a health aide armed with digital diagnostic & medical imaging equipment in a briefcase, and with video connections to summon help when needed.

The smartphone threat (or opportunity) will intensify next week when Apple introduces its new iPhone 6, iOS 8 operating system, Health apps, and HealthKit interface between sensor devices, medical record systems, and doctors. I’ll edit this article to include details once we have them.

Threat? or Opportunity?

So, it seems there are two kinds of doctors – (1) those who see the joint minitrends of wellness and telehealth as treats, and (2) those who see this as opportunity. The ones who are most at risk are those who do not expect and adjust to the many disruptive changes in healthcare. That’s why I highly recommend reading 101 MiniTrends in Health Care and attending the MiniTrends2014 Conference.

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