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I recently came across an intriguing blog post in support of the HyperWellbeing conference to be held in November in Mountain View, California. While the conference itself sounds interesting, I was taken by a concept put forward in the blog post: Wellness as a Service (WaaS). This is a variation on the relatively new business model for computer programs, Software as a Service (SaaS), where instead of buying a program, you make subscription payments which give you seamless access to the latest versions, upgrades, and added features.
The author of the post has observed a trajectory for wellness products that is similar to that for SaaS services. These include mobile apps and mobile health devices. I would point out that this model has already found a toehold in our consumer economy with the medical health alert devices that are marketed to seniors living independently in their own homes. These devices come with a monthly fee to cover the ongoing services that are included.
The blog post envisions a future where subscriptions will cover a web of interconnected health and medical services, from wearable devices to disease prevention, from body chemistry tracking to genome analysis, from nutrition to health insurance. I find this concept intriguing on several counts. First, it provides a model to consolidate the frothy Wild West market we have for the myriad wearable and mobile devices and services. I can see how a regional health service provider could assemble a “toolkit” of many products and services that it could make available to its subscribers, depending on their individual needs.
The bigger idea, however, is that this new model helps us break out of the current reactive model of medical services, and move toward the proactive, predictive, and preventative model that is made possible when we have more data available about us as individuals and as a community. It creates incentives to prevent disease, to encourage individual health, and to take advantage of the benefits that new technology has to offer. Instead of focusing on people when they become sick, the model rewards institutions for helping people remain healthy. And I think we will all win from that sort of an approach, as it will save lives and save enormous amounts of money, both private and public.