Evolving technology in wellness. Or should it be “Techevowell”, as in technological evolution in wellness? Hmmm. I like “Evotech” better but I won’t say “Evotechwell” because that sounds too much like those “SnackWell” cookies that are so bad for you, unless your goal in life is obesity and diabetes. Those should be changed to “Eviltechwell” because they are part of an evil conspiracy to make you sick, fat, and addicted. Welcome new readers, and you are going to have to get used to me, cuz I ain’t changin’, and so long unsubscribers who hate my jokes. The Lifetime Body…it’s a wild ride!
But seriously, folks, I am ON FIRE with enthusiastic energy about how things are moving in a positive direction in the wellness world. Every day we are inundated with new data about how horrible both American health and parts of our healthcare system have become. Depending on your authority or expert (and there are indeed many of them), how far back in time you want to go, and how much you spin the data, we are now looking at massive increases in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease over the past century. I’m not here to debate the statistics and like you, I read enough of them to know that we have a real problem. The observant individual at any mall or airport can provide corroborative information. But I’m just not seeing that…at least in my little world. I am engaged with dozens of clients who don’t fit that mold and who are actively participating in attaining, maintaining, and sharing a very high level of wellness. My business clients are very forward-thinking and are turning their organizations into well-springs of wellness (hopefully due in part to my involvement). And the athletes (note – I believe everyone is an athlete) and health-seekers I coach impress me daily with their zeal for life as well as the results they achieve. So what is going on here?
Before I can really address that question I feel the need to address wellness, both as a word, and as a condition of pursuit. I typically define wellness as not just the absence of illness, but the attainment of highest-level function in health, fitness, productivity, life satisfaction, contribution, and happiness. Yea, yea, you’ve heard my ramblings before. But here’s the kicker. Despite this term being popular since the 70’s, and it being an actual word in one of my degrees, it’s a low-impact piece of verbiage at best. I can give you first-hand experience. Wellness is pretty much a “non-attention-grabber” and it sorta breaks my heart. I’ve found myself in dozens of presentations when I felt all warm and fuzzy just thinking “wellness” but when I said it, the mere mention of the word turned “Wow!, into Bow! – as in the audience would bow their heads down, look away, mumble something, yawn, or look at their phones. People just don’t get as excited about wellness as I do. OK, I get it. Sometimes I would even try to mention wellness at the very same time I demonstrated a surprise plyometric box jump onto a table. I tried the jump with and without the word wellness and audience participation was always muted when that “w” word was associated with my athletic feat (most of my athletic feats are pretty mediocre anyway, but you see my point). So we’ve got a problem in the human awesomeness profession and we have to keep working on that. Lose weight, stay sexy, feel great, have fulfilling relationships, enjoy life, crush goals, be fit…all those things fall under the wellness umbrella but we have a disconnect. Let’s keep working on that.
Back to health and healthcare. For arbitrary purposes, let’s view health as a subset of wellness, and generalize that our healthcare system is actually the best in the world at providing acute care medical intervention to help emergently sick or injured patients get back to a baseline level of health. But apparently, at least according to the statistics and the naysayers, either our healthcare system and/or our citizens might not be quite as proficient at attaining ultimate wellness. The treatment, let alone the prevention, of lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, are demonstrably not the strong suit of our healthcare system. The statistics speak for themselves. I’m not calling anybody names here, but it comes down to this simple point: our current healthcare system is not a wellness system. Yes, there are current attempts at addressing this problem, and there has been both genuine effort as well as useless rhetoric in that direction for years, but whatever we’re doing, it ain’t cutting it. If you’re sick, you go to your physician or other care provider, but you generally (there are a few exceptions) don’t go there to put the frosting on your cake of wellness (I couldn’t resist). We have an illness-based, intervention-after-onset (of disease, disability, or alarming test results) medical system. Let me say again that system is the best in the world. You can bet that if I, or one of my family members, has an emergency illness, disease, accident, or other calamity that needs to be triaged and expediently treated, we are heading to the hospital to seek the appropriate life-saving intervention. That’s what they do…they save lives. You go to the hospital to get your life saved and not to die. You don’t go there feeling normal to get your wellness on.
So if wellness as a concept is struggling so mightily, why am I not seeing that? I think there are several potential reasons. First, I live in an active, outdoorsy community in southwest Montana, where there are probably some real per capita differences in activity levels, and knowledge of wellness as compared to the American genpop. So, on a day-to-day basis, I interact locally with people who actually may be a little more “wellness-minded.” Hallelujah! But most importantly, in my opinion, and this ties back into the introduction, it has to do with technology. The evolution of technology in wellness. Or the evolving use of technology in the provision and reception of wellness consulting and education services. Or something like that.
A couple of years ago I switched hats. I had been wearing quite a few professional monikers, and now I think it was actually too many. Physical therapist, fitness trainer, sports coach, ergonomics consultant, speaker, writer, investigator. I loved all the things I was doing and I didn’t really want to give up any of them. They all seemed related anyway. But I really wanted to reverse the order of the list. So it took 3 years of dedicated work to be able to shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye, and say without feeling sheepish: “Hi, I’m John. I’m an author and a human performance consultant.” And that’s where this little story comes to technology.
Three years ago 90% of my clientele were local, coming from the same community in which we all lived. As I transitioned from a comprehensive sports training and rehab clinic into a small office as a sole practitioner, I downsized my clinical presence while simultaneously increasing my writing and consulting endeavors. That resulted in a fun job description, as I spent about two years with roughly a 50/50 distribution of local versus remote clients. Now I’m seeing a nearly complete reversal of the original client distribution. Most of my clients don’t even live in the same state as me anymore, and they use technology to their great advantage. I’d love to say that this is because of my growing prowess at marketing and networking. However, my growth rate in that category is probably not as rapid as I wished it was, and instead, I’m seeing my professional work being driven by early adopters in technology as it relates to wellness.
We’ve been enjoying electricity and light bulbs for quite a while. Computing continues on its amazing journey. The internet has been around for a long time now, whether or not you attribute that to Al Gore. Social media, electronic meeting software, virtual private networks, cybersecurity advancements…the list goes on and on. The use of all of this technology is embedded into our existence, and to some extent, our function, whether mandated or chosen. But here is the interesting phenomenon…we, as a society, are just now beginning to accept the use of these technological tools (which business has embraced for decades) for wellness services. I’d say there has been a little of this going on for at least 15 years and I took part in it, but things have really taken off in the last couple of years, and are trending upwards aggressively. Finally, consumers are realizing that efficient, economical access to the objective, considered consultation of an experienced wellness professional, can be obtained with just a few clicks and keystrokes, and that this can result in amazing results. Online health and fitness consulting has been burgeoning, and it is even pulling medicine and healthcare into this delivery mechanism.
Let’s be for real here. As of today, you can’t hold your cell phone up to your head, press an app, and get brain surgery (although there is mounting evidence that constantly holding your cell phone up to your head may put you at greater risk of brain cancer). There will always be a need for brick and mortar medicine when hands-on procedures and interventions are warranted. But the emerging field of telemedicine, or telehealth, recognizes that a great percentage of “office visits,” in non-emergency situations, can be performed via online interactive consult quite effectively. Less cost. No driving. No waiting room full of sick people. Less carbon footprint. However, we are not quite seeing the adoption or acceptance of online medicine as readily as we are online wellness, health, and fitness coaching services. Old traditions die hard and, again, I’m not trying to extinguish the necessary office visit, I’m just saying that one of the many ways we can improve our medical system is by reducing office visits that can be conducted via more efficient means.
Take physical therapy for example. Montana is considered a rural state, but it has been a leader in progressive change with respect to telehealth. You’d think that a rural state was “backward” or “backwater”, or whatever, but we realized long ago that it is extremely difficult for patients to travel what would sometimes amount to several hours to attend a clinical appointment. Thus telehealth became efficient and cost-effective from a distance perspective. But ultimately, for many situations where an interaction is consultative, it makes sense to utilize technology to enhance efficiency, even if the patient and the clinic are only a mile apart (and we are in a non-urgent care situation). I offered this service for a while, but got only a few “takers.” But if somebody wanted guidance on training for a sporting event, losing weight, going from good to great with energy, and it didn’t look, smell, or feel like PT (and we were not legally bound to call it that, follow certain procedures, or involve the dreaded 3rd party insurer), my bookings began to fill rapidly.
In totality, we all probably wish for the same things: health, happiness and success (however you define it) for ourselves and all those around us. I’m gonna stick with saying that’s ultimate wellness. Technology allows us to rapidly deliver information, create actionable knowledge, and eventually to develop more POWER in health. I also see these early adopters of Evotech transcending stereotypes. One would think that only millenials would fully engage with this model, there would be a trickle-down with advancing age, and that our elders would fear a virtual visit. Again, not so in my world. Age distribution is fairly linear, although I must state that most of my clients span the Middle Ages (you are going to have to get used to this). I recently posted a video that described my clients. I’m amazed and inspired by where all this is going, and I salute you for being a trend-setter and leader. We’ve got work to do because a lot of lemmings are headed for the cliff. Chop chop!