Viewpoint: Healthcare needs a new type of digital disruption

Andrea Park - Print  | 

Though tech startup founders and investors have poured billions of dollars into their efforts to "disrupt" healthcare in recent years, their investments have not actually led to better health.

In a recent op-ed for The San Francisco Examiner, representatives from the Lown Institute and Well Being Trust suggest most digital health apps are based on two inherently false ideas: that tracking biomarkers such as heart rate and step count will lead to better outcomes, and that this focus on individual behavior will lead to health improvements on a community level.

In fact, according to the authors, wearable fitness trackers have not been linked to significant, sustainable improvements in weight or overall health. And while socioeconomic factors certainly play a role in an individual's well-being, it is all but impossible to translate individual benefits across entire populations.

"If Silicon Valley really wants to disrupt the healthcare sector in a way that has the most impact on people's health, it needs to bake an understanding of community conditions into whatever ideas they put forward," the authors wrote. "There is an enormous opportunity for truly disruptive tech innovation, but it needs to do more than activate individuals. It needs to change the dynamic of their social networks in brand new ways."

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