Going for Gold: Aggregating Actionable Data for Better Population Health Management
By Kristin Russel, Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy, Transcend Insights
US swimmer Michael Phelps was a champion coming out of the 2016 Olympics, winning five gold medals at the Games in Rio, cementing his role in history as the most decorated Olympian. Part of his success this year may have been due to a new set of drills his coach added to his training regimen, including extended sessions of dolphin kicking while clutching a 10-lb weight at his chest. Along with other astonishing accomplishments, Phelps won the 200-meter individual medley competition almost two seconds ahead of the next finisher.
To folks like you and me, two seconds may not sound like much at all; to elite athletes competing in the Summer Olympics, fractions of seconds are game-changers, the difference between winning a medal and going home empty-handed — or even making it to the Games at all. To extrapolate out from this, precise numbers have a huge impact in everything that Olympic athletes do: calories consumed, calories burned, hours and minutes trained, ounces of water consumed, hours of sleep, resting heart rate — these are just a few examples of the painstakingly calibrated metrics that dictate athletes’ lives.
Further, athletes and their trainers are increasingly relying on advanced technology and analytics to help them get an edge on the competition, including using wearable fitness trackers to monitor and record their performance metrics in real time. But the trackers that Olympians use are more advanced than a Fitbit — a notable example includes the WHOOP Strap, a wristband that tracks an athlete’s data 24/7, measuring heart beat and heart rate variability, skin conductivity, ambient temperature and movement; the data is transmitted to an app that aggregates and displays the information in a visual interface that can be accessed by trainers and coaches.
The crucial point here is that the figures and statistics elicited by trackers like the WHOOP Strap aren’t just numbers for their own sake — the way my weekend warrior of a husband might use a Garmin, for example. Again, at the elite level, every metric matters — and the performance data obtained by these highly sophisticated trackers can guide trainers and coaches in making strategic, data-driven adjustments to an athlete’s training regimen, their sleep schedules, rest days and beyond — all in the name of improved performance, which can make or break the career of a professional athlete.
The Olympian Blueprint for Population Health: Actionable, Data-Driven Outcomes
While it’s impractical to posit that these kinds of data-driven, highly connected health trackers are a silver bullet for improved healthcare on a larger scale, the focus on actionable, scientific outcomes should serve as a critical blueprint for healthcare professionals seeking to achieve better population health management. Too often, professionals working in population health management (not to mention the industry as a whole) get excited by new tools and technology without critically questioning whether the tool or innovation will actually furnish data that is: a) shareable; b) analyzable and c) actionable.
Information technology can and should play a role in better population health management, but to be useful, the solution must be interoperable and efficient at aggregating “messy” data — with a focus on furnishing information capable of supporting clinical and quality focused actions. Beyond the gadgets, insights gained from wearable devices must be integrated into care team workflows and shared across health systems to achieve gold medal-worthy outcomes.
How are wearables affecting your health outcomes?