Business Group Blog

How are Employers and the Jetsons Similar?

A: They Both Drive Health Care Innovations

During a recent Board dinner, the topic of the Jetsons came up in conversation. We’re not the first to recognize it, but the writers’ ability to predict the future is both fascinating and intriguing. George had a flat screen TV. He read his newspaper electronically (think iPad). Jane had a Roomba-like vacuum cleaner. But more than anything, it was the doctor exam that occurred via video chat that captured our attention. That episode was first shown in 1962; fifty-six years ago, for those who don’t want to do the math. (That also may mean some of us saw that episode in syndication….)

According to research, innovations in health care can take an average of 17 years to become standard practice[i]. For this reason, many new innovations are going direct to employers to help shepherd them into the healthcare ecosystem. The Business Group’s Health Innovations Forum affords us the opportunity to see many of these solutions. Many are changing the face of healthcare; they also feel like they could’ve been on the Jetsons 50 years ago.

Imagine Jane being able to resolve an ache or pain with guided physical therapy in the comfort and convenience of her own home. Or George getting an alert that his blood sugar is too low accompanied with immediate feedback to avoid a hypoglycemic event. While they could have been futuristic cartoons of yesteryear, they are exactly the innovations gaining traction in the employer market. Solutions such as Hinge Health, Physera and SimpleTherapy are helping make physical therapy more convenient and accessible by bringing it into employees’ homes. Hello Heart, Livongo Health, Intuity Medical and WellDoc, to name a few, are offering ongoing monitoring and feedback to those managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While they tackle different conditions in different ways, the common theme is that they improve upon what is feasible in the healthcare system today.  And because of this, employers are shepherding them into the system just as they did telemedicine.

These solutions capture only a small glimpse into the innovation occurring across the healthcare ecosystem, and it’s hard to say what the future will look like. But at a minimum, we are experiencing a migration of care to newer, more efficient and convenient venues. The first to benefit will likely be employees of large employers. Unless someone could channel the creativity of Jetsons’ writers Hanna and Barbera to identify meaningful ways to integrate them into physician practice quicker….

What else are we seeing in the Health Innovations Forum? Stay tuned for future blog posts.

[i] Brownson RC, Kreuter MW, et al. Translating Scientific Discoveries Into Public Health Action: How Can Schools of Public Health Move Us Forward? Public Health Rep 2006; 121(1):97-103.