Driving for a Better Way to Engage Consumers in their Own Health


Attention to health is life’s greatest hindrance—Plato

Let’s just say you own a car. You have undoubtedly purchased insurance for the car and if you are diligent and worried about value and performance, you also are diligent about maintenance. You get the oil changed according to schedule, you fill it with the right kind of gas, change the tires when they get old, and take the car to the mechanic when a warning light indicates there’s a problem you can’t fix yourself. If you are a typical motorist, you also avoid life-endangering behaviors. You drive relatively safely, you don’t speed along cliffs or play chicken with other cars on the freeway. You are, effectively, an engaged consumer of cars. You carefully shopped for it, you don’t abuse the expensive asset you purchased, and you take it for care when needed. As a result, it lasts a long time unless some idiot causes an unavoidable accident that wasn’t your fault.

Now consider your body. Granted, you didn’t exactly choose it, but as its sole owner, you have the option to care for it just like you would your car. If you were acting like an engaged consumer in the same manner, you would feed your body healthy foods (not the cheap stuff that makes it run badly); you would exercise to keep gunk from clogging your valves; you would take it to the doctor when you see symptoms that aren’t natural; you might push it a little now and then by drinking or eating too much or forgetting to take your medicine for a day, but you wouldn’t make that a regular habit. You wouldn’t smoke. You would do whatever you could to secure health insurance in the event you have a medical crisis, and, if you are diligent and worried about your body’s value and performance, you would have regular check-ups and take whatever medications were prescribed to maximize that performance.

But here’s the question: How many people take care of themselves as well as they do their cars? And what would it take to get them to take better care of themselves?

OK, that’s two questions.

Still, there has been an increasing buzz out over the last couple of years about the importance of engaging consumers in more actively taking care of themselves. And it’s not just freeway noise. In a country where 75 percent of all healthcare costs are due to … Next Page »

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Lisa Suennen is a managing director with GE Ventures and former managing member of the Psilos Group, as well as the co-author of Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology? and author of the blog Venture Valkyrie. Follow @venturevalkyrie

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