It’s not every day that you receive snail mail with life-changing information in it, but when it does come, it can come from the unlikeliest sources.
A year ago, when doing a simple change of health insurance vendors, I had to give the requisite blood sample. I knew the drill… nurse comes to the house, takes blood, a month later I get new insurance documents in the mail.
But this time the package included something new: the results of my tests.
The report was a list of 13 metrics and their values, including a brief description about what they meant and what my scores should be. One in particular was out of the norm. My ALT score, which helps measure liver malfunction, was about 50% higher than the expected range.
Simple Data Can Be Valuable
Here is the key point: I then followed up with my family doctor, with data in hand. I did not have to wait to see symptoms of a systemic issue and get him to figure it out. We had a number, right there, in black and white. Something was wrong.
Naturally, I had a follow up test to see if it was just a blip. However, my second test showed even worse results, twice as high in fact! This lead to an ultrasound and more follow up tests.
In the end, I had (non-alcoholic) Fatty Liver Disease. Most commonly seen in alcoholics, it was a surprise as I don’t drink. It was solely due to my diet and the weight I had put on over several years.
It was a breaking point for my system and the data was a big red flag calling me to change before it was too late.
Not impressed with my weight nor all my other scores, I made simple but dramatic changes to improve my health.* Changes were so dramatic that my healthcare provider was very curious about my methods.
By only making changes to my diet I was able to get my numbers to a healthy level in just a few months. In the process I lost 46 pounds in 8 months and recovered from various other symptoms. The pending train wreck is over.
Long Term Value in Sharing Healthcare Data
It’s been one year this week, so I’m celebrating and it is thanks to Manulife or whoever does their lab tests, for taking the initiative to send me my lab results.
It doesn’t take long to see the business value in doing so, does it? I took action on the information and now I’m healthier than I have been in almost 20 years. I have fewer health issues, will use their systems less, will cost them less money, etc.
Ideally it benefits the group plan I’m in too as a lower cost user of the system. I hope both insurers and employers take this to heart and follow suit to give the data their people need to make life changing and cost reducing decisions like this.
One final thought.. how many people are taking these tests right now? Just imagine what you could do with a bit of data analysis of their results. Taking these types of test results, companies could be making health predictions for their customers and health professionals to review. That’s why I’m jumping onto “biohacking” sites like WellnessFX.com to track all my scores these days and to get expert advice on next steps or access to additional services.
I’m so happy with any data sharing, but why give me just the raw data when I still have to interpret it? I took some initiative to act on the results, but what if I had needed more incentive? If I had been told “Lower your ALT or your premiums will be 5% higher” I would have appreciated that.
What’s your price? If your doctor or insurer said “do this and save $100” – would you do it? What if they laid the data out before you and showed you where your quality of life was headed, would it make a difference to you?
I’m glad I had this opportunity to improve my health, but at this point I just say thanks for the data … and pass the salad please!
* I transitioned to a Whole Food – Plant Based diet (read Eat to Live and The China Study). You can read more about the massive amounts of nutrition science coming out every year at NutritionFacts.org or read research papers yourself.