Mind to Market

Friday, November 16, 2007

Marathon Dog

A few years back I had the opportunity to take a friend's dogs out for runs. One of these dogs was a bulldog named Bandit. Bandit was a bundle of fast twitch muscle and would literally pull me for first mile. The second mile he would jog beside me contentedly, the third I would have to coax him along and by the fourth mile I would have to sling him over my shoulder if I had any chance of making it back home.

Despite this seeming lack of endurance, given enough time and doggy treats, I was confident I could train him for a marathon. Fortunately for Bandit, his owner decided that 5k's were the limit and probably spared him an early demise.

The story of my dog training came to mind at yesterday's Healthcare Heroes event sponsored by the Boulder County Business Report. A panel of healthcare experts provided their opinions on the future of healthcare and fielded questions. An audience member asked whether it was appropriate for healthcare providers and payers to incentivize healthy activities such as diet and exercise, since it would potentially lower the individual's healthcare needs. Although some payers do offer incentives to reduce harmful habits such as smoking, John Sackett, CEO of Avista Adventist Hospital, provided a warning that it would be difficult to issue these incentives across the general population. Given the wide genetic disparities in populations, Sackett said, standard incentives such as weight loss, may not be helpful and may even cause harm.

One size fits all healthcare has proven to be an inadequate model, should preventative programs prove any different? Are genetically based incentives a possibility? Navigenics has announced that it plans to launch a genetic test called Health Compass that will indicate what lifestyle changes people could make to avoid or delay disease. This test will be offered via the Internet for $2,500.

Although these types of tests are in their infancy, they may very well become a standard part of the healthcare process in years to come. Bandit didn’t need a $2,500 test to tell him to stop at 3 miles, his genotype was expressed quite clearly. With humans it's not nearly as clear and the benefits of testing my prove to be compelling.

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