True change that will really address the challenges of the future requires something more disruptive. Cardiovascular disease, for example, causes 29% of deaths in the Netherlands, with chronic respiratory diseases behind 6%. The country won’t be able to make real steps towards transforming its health outlook unless we can prevent today’s young adults from becoming tomorrow’s chronic patients. After all, there is a clear recipe for success – all you need to do is lead an active life, eat a balanced diet, avoid cigarettes and alcohol and manage your stress.
While the solution sounds simple enough, this is obviously insufficient. We’re all different and have different needs, so generic advice just won’t cut through to everyone. The situation demands innovation in behavioral technology that goes beyond motivation and focuses on an individual’s personal ability to change and adds personal triggers that suits the way they’re best motivated.
This means moving to systems that are personalized and fully context aware. This is becoming possible as apps begin to combine the data collected by patients’ smartphones and wearables. This is known as digital phenotyping and will help device manufacturers and health providers to learn an individual’s behavior, habits, cravings, and triggers, in order to provide the right feedback at the right time and in the right tone.
This highly personalized behavioral app approach has the greatest potential to help people stop smoking, eating healthier and manage their stress better – three areas that are essential to address if the Netherlands is to reduce its chronic disease burden.
Finding ways to manage chronic diseases better for those that already have them and prevent younger generations from obtaining them at such high rates is crucial for the Netherlands to significantly reduce health costs over the long term. If nothing is done to lower these costs, the country could be spending as much as a quarter of its GDP and a quarter of its working population on curative and long-term health care. Preventative health powered by advanced technology, along with dramatic leaps in our ability to make tiny smart devices for health monitoring, must – and will – be a big part of any solution.