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Bigger Isn’t Better When It Comes to Chronic Care

Toru
Izumida
September 2, 2020
Bigger Isn’t Better When It Comes to Chronic Care
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By Julia Hu, CEO of Lark Health

Originally published on LinkedIn

Anytime someone invokes the story of David fighting Goliath, they are likely telling an underdog story. The small, unassuming David takes on a behemoth and somehow comes out on top, surprising everyone. Many make the mistake of focusing on the men’s relative size, rather than the “somehow” that enabled David to be victorious—his innovation. 

The challenge of treating, preventing, and managing chronic diseases in this country can feel like a Goliath-sized undertaking. Six in ten Americans are living with at least one chronic disease, and these conditions are not only the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., but are also the leading driver of our rising health care costs. Now, with the additional strain being placed on our health care system by COVID-19, finding new, innovative tools that can make a meaningful difference in chronic care delivery is more important than ever. 

Telehealth has long been touted as that game-changing innovation, and it’s unfortunate that it has taken a global pandemic to spur the kind of investment necessary to bring it into the mainstream of care delivery. The public markets have also recently offered a huge vote of confidence in this model with the announcement of Teladoc’s acquisition of Livongo, and it’s great to see this kind of support for virtual solutions. But, traditional telemedicine, where a licensed provider offers a virtual visit to a patient either through video chat or over the phone, even if paired with other siloed point solutions, won’t be able to meet the scale of the growing chronic disease challenge. Additionally, many telemedicine services simply pair patients with any available provider, which can lead to disjointed care. There simply aren’t enough physicians, nurses, and coaches in the world to provide that kind of care, whether it’s being delivered in-person or virtually. 

Instead of trying to “think bigger” by combining a variety of fragmented point solutions into larger and larger companies, we need to emulate David and think more creatively about how to shape a virtual care system for chronic disease beyond telehealth, capable of slaying the giants of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and behavioral health challenges. Conversational AI technology could be just the slingshot we need. 

Instead of trying to “think bigger” by combining a variety of fragmented point solutions into larger and larger companies, we need to emulate David and think more creatively about how to shape a virtual care system for chronic disease beyond telehealth, capable of slaying the giants of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and behavioral health challenges. Conversational AI technology could be just the slingshot we need.

It’s scalable. 

One of the key challenges with delivering chronic care is that patients need support 24/7 in all of the decision-making moments that can impact their health. Even if we deployed every doctor, nurse, and health coach, they could not meet that need for the millions of people working to prevent or manage a chronic condition. Conversational AI trained using cognitive behavioral therapy can be a constant companion for patients, and be available at any moment to support them in their care journey. This kind of routine, regular coaching fills critical gaps in our current delivery system, which is still built around infectious disease treatment and acute care needs, even with the addition of virtual provider visits. 

It’s seamless.

At Lark, we’ve chosen to invest heavily in our technology, spending six years building an AI-powered health coach capable of achieving outcomes, such as patient weight loss, on par with in-person coaching programs. Our conversational AI is trained on millions of patient interactions, so it is constantly updating and learning how to deliver better care. By establishing a seamless technology foundation that can cover a host of chronic disease conditions, we not only create an enjoyable experience for our users, but we can provide a breadth of services and programs through a singular platform that will continually learn and improve over time. 

It’s personalized. 

Every patient on a chronic care journey is unique, and I should know as someone who has battled a chronic condition my entire life. Conversational AI, especially when paired with connected devices like a glucose monitor or blood pressure cuff, learn the needs of every user, providing them recommendations personalized to their individual health condition and behavior patterns. This not only helps keep them more engaged in their health, but offers tailored care that can help improve their outcomes. 

It’s a trusted guide. 

As virtual care services continue to expand, it will be all the more important to have a trusted sherpa to help navigate the digital version of a complex care journey. Lark’s programs meet users where they are, learns about them, and can help shepherd them through their entire care journey. The conversational AI can serve as an “extra set of hands” to handle the routine, daily chronic care, and is equipped to alert health professionals when an emergent or acute need arises. This allows our health professionals to practice at the top of their licenses, knowing that they have a trusted partner in Lark present during the times they aren’t seeing their patients. AI technology can serve as the constant thread woven between patients and providers, strengthening their relationships, filling critical gaps in care, and enabling our system to better handle acute and chronic needs simultaneously. 

AI technology can serve as the constant thread woven between patients and providers, strengthening their relationships, filling critical gaps in care, and enabling our system to better handle acute and chronic needs simultaneously.

As we continue to battle both COVID-19 and our chronic disease crisis, it is more important than ever that our health care delivery system adapts to these challenges. Our investments in virtual care now will shape the digital health landscape for years to come, so we must make sure that we’re choosing the most innovative solutions capable of slaying these giants.

About Lark

Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.

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