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Wellness

Healthcare and Food Align to Benefit the Individual

Health & Wellness Gets Personal: Part 3

The personalized wellness vision aligns managed care organizations, healthcare providers, employers, food manufacturers and retailers to improve and maintain the wellness of each individual. Powerful economic benefits accrue to each member of the ecosystem in addition to the societal good resulting from improved health across the nation’s populace.

The personalized wellness food-health supply chain begins with the individual consumer and an understanding of their health condition and food products beneficial to that condition. As the source of food, supermarket retailers have an opportunity to become an extension of personalized healthcare, a trusted partner in wellness for each individual. What better loyalty can a retailer seek than helping customers live better lives?

"Big food" manufacturers, challenged by declining sales as growing numbers of consumers push back against processed foods, have an opportunity to reorganize efforts around new consumer segments driven by health and well-being. This realignment is already underway as we see a growing number of gluten-free, sugar-free, natural and organic products across the store.

Healthcare providers play an invaluable role in identifying the individual’s health condition and enrolling them in personalized wellness services provided by local retailers as part of the treatment regimen. Improved eating habits are inextricably linked to improved outcomes.

The benefits of personalized wellness are most readily apparent to employers and managed care companies as they seek to reduce claims and lower risk profiles. A recent Wells Fargo Insurance survey found 51% of employers are looking to add or increase wellness initiatives to improve the health of their workforce. Employees appear to be on board as well. According to a recent HealthMine Survey, 75% of employees want their employer to offer health and wellness incentives.

The personalized wellness vision creates a powerful new paradigm by closing the loop, validating purchase of beneficial foods and products through access to customer identified transaction data. For the first time, it is possible to understand an individual consumer’s health condition, understand what food products throughout the store are beneficial to that condition, communicate that selection of foods to the consumer via any digital channel, and then close the loop by validating which of those products were purchased. Such a closed ecosystem underpins a new world of wellness incentives driven by proof of performance.

The exponential growth of computer processing power is fueling an explosion of innovation and new capabilities across every industry, including healthcare and food. Yet the concept of exponential growth is challenging for human beings to comprehend as our lives have been lived linearly; tomorrow will be much like today, which is much the same as yesterday. But this is no longer true. We are at the knee of the growth curve, and the pace of change is only increasing as exponential gains become more noticeable.

It is only now that the data and the technologies are available to create the personalized wellness paradigm envisioned here. Deconstructing nutrition information to countless data attributes enables powerful linkage between health conditions and the hundreds of thousands of food products available across the United States. The ability to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalize, at a product level, food recommendations that are beneficial to each individual is only recently available. And what makes it all work is the ability to convey personalized food guidance to the individual via the smartphone in hand while in the store aisle.

ScriptSave, a major player in pharmacy services and a part of MedImpact, is leading innovation in the space, having brought together the requisite technologies and needed skill sets. ScriptSave is partnering with significant regional supermarket retailers to meld health and food, pioneering transformation in both massive industries by bringing the vision to life as the WellRx Personalized Wellness program.

Perhaps what is most powerful about the personalized wellness vision is that everyone across the food-healthcare supply chain benefits from improved outcomes and quality of life for the individual. Retailers gain stronger customer relationships as they come to be viewed as true partners in wellness, and consumer goods brand manufacturers have a path to redemption from the processed foods abyss.

Employers and managed care organizations who shoulder a substantial portion of healthcare cost finally have an ability to link improved eating to performance based measures, providing the foundation for meaningful incentives to encourage the sought-after healthy behavior.

The vision of a new model joining together the massive healthcare and food industries is powerful. The data and the technology needed to make personalized wellness a reality are available today. Participants across the food-health supply chain—managed care organizations, employers, providers, food manufacturers and retailers—are already coalescing around the personalized wellness vision, bringing it to life and improving the human condition.

Gary Hawkins is the founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART). He can be reached at gary.hawkins@advancingretail.org.

Dr. Marcus Sredzinski is the COO and EVP of Medical Security Card, LLC. He has more than 24 years of experience in healthcare, working with the nation's largest insurers, health plans, pharmacies and pharmaceutical organizations. His experience includes pharmacy operations and direction, clinical operations, formulary and rebate management and disease management programs.

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