While attending the Connected Health Conference in Boston last week, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Joseph Kvedar. Besides being one of the most knowledgeable people on connected health including two books, “The Internet of Healthy Things” and “The New Mobile Age: How Technology Will Extend the Healthspan and Optimize the Lifespan“, he also has to be one of the nicest people you’ll meet in the connected health space.
This was the first time I’d had a chance to sit down with Joseph Kvedar since the release of his latest book, so I was interested in the insights and experiences he’s had with that book. In the half hour we spent together, the connected health knowledge and experiences just flowed. Here are a few of the insights he shared which stood out to me.
First, Joseph Kvedar introduced the concept of Lifespan vs Healthspan. We all know that our expected lifespan has gotten longer over the past 50 years. While this is great, Joseph Kvedar wanted to ask the question of how many years of our lives we live in a healthy, productive state or what he calls Healthspan. His latest book addresses how technology can increase the number of healthy productive years we have in our lives. A noble goal indeed. What he discovered is there are three things that extend a person’s healthspan:
- A Sense of Purpose
- Physical Activity
- Social Interactions
We could dive into each of these individually, but it’s better to go and read his book for all the details. However, he pointed out something really interesting about these three items. Technology can do pretty well at monitoring physical activity and even social interactions to a large degree. However, it’s much harder for technology to measure whether someone has a sense of purpose. It’s a clear reminder that technology can help us in healthcare, but it is certainly not the end all be all.
Joseph Kvedar went on to talk with me about how we’re going to need technology to facilitate what he calls one to many care. In many places, we don’t have enough healthcare providers or caregivers to take care of the silver tsunami as many have called our aging population. We’ll need technology to make up the difference and allow one person to be able to care for many people at once. It’s a powerful idea that we’re starting to see come to fruition in small ways already.
When talking with Joseph Kvedar, he compared it to us as all wishing we were like the US President who always has a doctor with him. When the doctor is needed for the US President, he’s there. Of course, that’s impossible to scale for everyone, but can technology help it to be as if you have a doctor with you all the time? Any technology solution will be less effective than having a real doctor there 24/7, but could technology help to fill the gaps? I think the answer is yes and we’re seeing that play out in the connected health world in really interesting ways.
Joseph Kvedar explained that “My generation was trained that you can’t rely on anyone to do anything, but we’ll never survive in this new world if we don’t rely on others and tech.” That’s a really powerful idea and message for our medical education institutions. Certainly, the trust but verify principle has been an important one for doctors, but the acceleration of technology and the data behind that technology is going to transform what a doctor needs to trust in order to care for patients effectively.
Lots to chew on coming out of a meeting with Joseph Kvedar. At one point he talked about how he was often too early on many of his connected health predictions. That might be true with some of the things he mentions above as well, but it’s hard to argue with any of them. It’s more a question of when these things are likely to happen versus if.