Finding that Sweet Spot for Making a Change in Your Health
A Data-Driven, Hi-Tech Approach to Better Health and Lower Healthcare Costs
By Gavin Quinnies
Anyone who has ever tried to keep a New Year’s resolution knows that change is hard. As human beings, we are creatures of habit, and those ingrained behaviors are hard to break even with the right motivation. Add in our tendency to procrastinate, and change becomes an uphill battle. The good news is that there’s a “sweet spot” for change—a time when people are motivated to make real differences in their lives. Discovering how this process happens, and what creates lasting change, gives you the best chance to make important changes for your health.
Why Change is So Hard
It takes time, effort and mental energy to make a change in our behavior. The status quo is much easier to maintain, and if you’re feeling okay, you might think “if it’s not broke, why fix it?” That’s especially true if the ramifications are far in the future. If you tell me that unless I change my diet, I might contract a disease in ten years, my natural reaction is that I have nine years to party!
Each year, people make New Year’s resolutions for positive changes in their lives. Many of us have probably laughed about our lack of follow through. We’re simply not being effective in making lasting change. One lead culprit is taking on too much in an “all or nothing” approach, e.g. we’re going to get healthy and lose weight by exercising and eating right. Then, when we miss a gym day, or we have a cookie, it derails us with negative thoughts and a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
Of course, there are times when an all-or-nothing approach is essential. With opioid addiction, for example, just one slip could launch an addict back into dangerous territory. So when the stakes for change are high, such as with the opioid crisis, we have to understand the dynamics of what it takes to make a lasting and positive change.
Discovering the Sweet Spot
Now I’m a manufacturing engineer. I started in aerospace with jets and engines, focusing on quality and evaluating risk. There are mathematical formulas/algorithms that predict risk, given any number of factors. It’s the same in healthcare. At US HealthCenter, we maintain this massive mathematical database that incorporates the risk factors identified by experts that are linked to disease. The wellness platform, known as PredictiMed™, helps people identify their own health risks. Each member is tracked via a Personal Health Dashboard™, which incorporates the elements that affect an individual’s health such as pharmacy data, demographic data, blood chemistry and lifestyle choices.
We flag members who might need to change unhealthy habits to avoid problems in the near-term—such as the next three years—the timeframe shown to be a ‘sweet spot’ for making lifestyle changes that impact health. Then, we arm them with the resources to make the changes necessary to ward off serious disease. Remember that successful and sustainable change requires a toolbox that includes expert support. We give our members the tools that make a difference, whether it’s a Wholeistic™ coach available via your home computer or smart phone, and a road map to health that could include stress-reducing yoga, good nutrition, regular physician visits, and more. In the same way that we use a toolbox to fix a loose hinge, for example, we can utilize the tools that help us fix our habits.
When they start to make those changes, not only are they healthier and happier, but everybody saves money. It’s spending $2,500 on hypertension versus $18,000 to treat a heart attack, for example; or the cost of a colonoscopy versus $100,000 to treat colon cancer.
Addiction also is one of the costliest conditions to address. Addicts typically cost health plans seven times the amount of a non-addict, so preventing addiction—and helping people kick the habit—makes a real difference in both cost and quality of life.
The Special Case for Addiction
Turning around an addiction is not like making other changes. Addiction is all-consuming, and successful change requires an approach that checks all of the boxes. These include group and individual interventions, meetings, therapy and a way to equip an addict with the tools needed during down time—when support may be out of easy reach.
We recently partnered with the Freedom 365 Virtual Recovery System™, which provides 24/7, 365 days of support with a personal recovery guide to help recovering addicts stay on course. In the case of addiction recovery, Freedom 365 offers a comprehensive, 28-day addiction recovery kick starter program to set the foundation for one’s personal recovery program, plus over 500 searchable videos to help interrupt negative thinking patterns and habits, and a full suite of long-term relapse-prevention tools. We also work to prevent addiction by only permitting physicians to prescribe opioids for post-surgical pain. Otherwise, they must consider other methods of pain abatement.
Importantly, once we identify the sweet spot, we empower our members on their journey toward better health. This data-driven, pro-active wellness approach has been very successful. To date, we have reduced employer healthcare costs by 25% to 30% and improved the health of countless individuals.
We all have a sweet spot—a time when we could be motivated to make a change. Employers need to understand the value of supporting such change, which translates into higher productivity, lower healthcare costs and a boost to the bottom line. It’s a win-win for everybody, but especially for the individuals who will benefit from a lifetime of good health.
Are you thinking about making a positive change in your health? If you’ve reached your sweet spot for change, consider this:
- Good nutrition and exercise can help ward off disease, and even help you to reduce your medications.
- Start with small changes that are doable rather than trying to take on too much all at once.
- Find your personal support network, such as a colleague or a friend, and couple that with the tools that will help you stay on course along your journey to good health.
Change is hard. But we know what to expect, and how to succeed.
– Gavin Quinnies, US HealthCenter President & CEO.