This article is was originally published in the Strat Farm blog on July 14th, 2014.
If America’s major metropolises were competing in the Tour de France of health and wellness policymaking, then we would be inclined to believe that Boston would be leading the peloton (image above via The Hubway). The city is now allowing doctors to prescribe discounted bike share memberships to low-income residents. While this is certainly a victory for the social mobility of struggling citizens – studies, including this one, have found that access to transportation increases the odds that a disadvantaged child can work their way into a higher income bracket by the age of 30 – the ramifications for health and technology are even more radical.
The day could come very soon when a doctor might be able to prescribe a connected bike-share program (or really any lifestyle change), and then leverage wearable technology to track a patient’s progress and adherence to the program. As the device collects data, it could be funneled back to an app that tracks and calculates the various benefits of different activities in biometrics like heart rate.
The synthesis of measurement and feedback could empower and motivate the patient, perhaps by helping them to identify what levels and types of activity provide the biggest results in terms of health improvement. Measurements could be put into a game designed by wellness experts to challenge participants as well as to motivate them to compete against each other. All of these technological advances, working in concert, could represent a quantum leap in prevention of a host of problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Making these ideas work will involve a number of players, and will depend on the robustness of the strategies underneath them. Fitness experts and physicians can provide the know-how on extracting and interpreting health data. Hardware designers can create the next generation of bio-measuring technology to capture measurements accurately, and software developers will be crucial to figuring out how to house, process, and present the results. And just as crucially, advertising and marketing experts can share the consumer insights necessary to ensure adoption at scale – and of course, to help sell the concept to health care providers and users themselves.
The benefits from this arrangement will echo back to brands in astounding ways. This data will provide unprecedented consumer insight, on individual and demographic levels. Brands will have the opportunity to develop more personalized experiences that effectively influence buyer’s decisions and generate greater loyalty. The quiet revolution in data driven development is here, arriving – not coincidentally – at the peak of consumer interest in wellness.
There are sure to be unforeseen issues that arise with Boston’s embrace of bike-sharing as a health management tool. But innovative policies like this are a brave sally at creating solutions to a host of medical and social ills. When technology, marketing, and enterprise get savvy to integrated wellness, we’ll all be a lot closer to addressing some of the biggest quality-of-life questions of the 21st century.