During the past two decades, both fitness and medical professionals have agreed that for this country to improve the health of its individuals, a synergy is necessary. All of us realize that lifestyle-related diseases are seriously affecting our health-care system and are preventable. In fact, the World Health Organization recently called obesity “a worldwide pandemic.” Many organizations have tried to create software and hardware solutions that allow health-care and fitness systems to communicate, but no one has yet unlocked the key to making a significant effect on our country's health issues.
Today the only way to reverse declining health macro trends is through a powerful alliance between technology, health care and fitness. Although this isn't new, the following trends will allow breakthroughs to happen: 1) technology will continue to become significantly more affordable and an integral part of all of our lives; 2) systems are now available to collect the exact data that health-care entities require to subsidize fitness for their members; and 3) device and technology manufacturers are aligning to create an “ecosystem” of communication. This ecosystem includes everything from on-demand video to a live television feed. It also allows a fitness professional to immediately send client information (risk factors, progress and even post-rehabilitation notes) to a health-care professional.
This last point is where we will see significant leverage. Most fitness professionals are limited in their use of the Internet and Web-based file sharing, while the health-care industry has made strides. With tried-and-tested devices and Web interfaces, doctors can communicate with trainers via the Web using common information vs. e-mailing or playing phone tag to properly co-coach a client.
What will this cooperative effort look like? First, a physician must determine that the patient should begin an exercise program due to one or more significant risk factors. The physician then uploads this information to the Web. Next, a fitness professional visits a secure Web site and downloads the necessary information immediately. The trainer then begins working with this client to log and track his or her progress. This information is captured and uploaded to the common Web site, which the physician can access in real time. This process can also be accomplished with a kiosk-based system at a health club by using a personal identification number (the club member simply updates the workout information, which is then automatically sent to the physician). Of course, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (privacy laws commonly known as HIPAA) will apply, but many people will allow this exchange of information if they trust both parties.
The kiosk-based systems can run reports segmenting data for both the physician and the fitness entity. When representative numbers of individuals who exercise regularly and under supervision have reduced risks or have recovered properly, the health-care system will start to notice. This will allow health-care providers to have broad-spectrum data to use internally or with their constituents, including businesses. This data ties both the fitness industry and the health care industry together in a quantitative manner, showing the direct benefit of collaboration between each respective industry.
Equipment manufacturers are partnering with technology and health-care companies to build these capabilities. Don't miss this opportunity. Meet with your vendors and ask them to share their vision. The partners who get this right will increase the value of their information to each other and provide seamless service to their clients and patients.
Gregory Florez is CEO of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services and First Fitness Inc., which was rated as the No. 1 health coaching online training service by The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].