Programs like Weight Watchers will need to adapt to changing technologies or chance losing significant market share to the 100's of niche-specific programs such as Paleo Plan popping up every month.
- Who needs points systems when your meals and shopping lists are already figured out for you?
- Who needs to travel for "Fast Food", when it becomes increasingly easy (and cheaper) to make and prepare meals at home?
- Who needs to Google recipes if you have healthy and practical recipes texted to you every day?
- Who needs to go to the grocery store, when items can be sorted for you and shipped to you directly and affordably?
The Science of Behavior Change
BJ Fogg, PhD heads the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University's Department of "Captology". Fogg has both curated and spearheaded some of the most innovative work in behavior change going on today and if you're analytical like me, I highly recommend checking out his work.
If you don't think this field is big...then you must not have ever clicked a Twitter "Retweet" or a Facebook "Like" button or subscribed to an e-mail newsletter any time recently!
These are context-dependent technologies that have trained you to "log-in" and revisit them almost daily.
They help you get back in touch with old friends, see what your friends are up to in real-time, and learn about events going on that you may have missed otherwise.
These services are now taken for granted, but you can see why Facebook is valued in a few more zeros than you may expect when you compare it to say the newspaper industry which has been really struggling lately.
It may have only been a year or two back that you were resisting creating a Facebook profile in the first place!
If you can find time to make Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn a daily habit, you can use the same principles to learn to make healthy behavior a daily part of your life as well.
The hidden message circulating the blogosphere lately is that oversaturation will be the theme of 2012.
Bloggers are having to spend more time and money creating high quality content and media on their sites to keep finicky readers engaged. Competition is infinite in social media & the greater blogosphere.
The leaders of tomorrow must find their excellence in tightly defined niches.
It is no different in the health industry.
Most everything we know about the human body and health is available freely on the internet.
Health professionals that help curate that information, present it an an informing, yet entertaining manner, and who create products and services that save individuals the time of doing research themselves will become the next thought leaders.
Healthcare is changing because of these movements.
Not only can you find highly targeted information with a simple Google search, new conversations can spread virally around the internet.
More importantly, I feel that we will see new technologies develop that leverage online and mobile networks to support the creation of healthy habits in the first place.
"Simple" Uses of Technology for Health:
Simple is better in the world of behavior change.
Just because technology for a service is available, does not mean you have to use it either.
Setting up text reminders and cell phone alarms can be all you really need to make sure you take your supplements or medications at the right time or to remind you to stop and visit the grocery store on your way home from work.
For me, I use online Pomodoro timers to help improve my own productivity. Pomodoro is a tested time management technique that cycles work and rest periods to gain more productivity throughout the entire day without bonking after an intense morning of work.
The more that you can help automate healthy activities with the simplest of means, the more likely you will maintain the new habit over the long-term.
There is billions of dollars to be made for companies that succeed in triggering behavior changes in novel ways.
Advanced Services to Support Behavior Change:
There are now a number of mobile and online applications that help you measure your goals, maintain accountability among your peers, or even create a "game" around living healthier.
- For instance, some gaming technologies may help children with Type I diabetes learn why it is important that they monitor their blood sugar and keep emergency snacks on hand. The games may be "corny" or "silly", but preliminary reports say they do work in helping kids learn important aspects of their illness which may cut health costs, and more importantly, saves lives.
- Services like Beeminder.com help you to track specific goals over time so that you can see the overall trend of your progress & give your goals a more tangible feel.
- Stickk.com is one of the better known applications which has you put real money on the line, choose who referees your success, and if you fail to reach your goal, you can choose to have the money donated to your least favorite cause. How's that for motivation?
- Fooducate's powerful mobile app allows you to take a picture of a food label and immediately bring up nutrition information & ratings regarding the product.
I have learned not to underestimate the power of technologies that can remind you and keep you accountable for your goals.
If things as simple as a "like", "share", and "retweet" buttons are able to create billion dollar businesses, imagine what simple text reminders might do for your health.