The healthcare system in this country is inherently broken.
Let’s be honest for a moment to start this topic, this isn’t just a matter of the wrong people being in charge or prices getting out of hand, while these can be problems. Rather, the fundamental economic principles that keep the industry going have nothing to do with your health as an individual consumer.
This doesn’t have to be our future, though. More people are trying to take their health into their own hands with a preventative approach to eating better. The thing is that it’s difficult to make that happen on one’s own. I believe that AI is the tool that can fix this issue and append a flawed healthcare industry.
The System’s Rooted Flaws
Healthcare prices are steadily rising, as they have been for decades. To put this in perspective, CMS data shows that U.S. health care spending grew 4.3 percent in 2016, to a total of $3.3 trillion or $10,348 per person. This takes place largely because our healthcare system is more about fixing current issues than preventing them. At the end of the day, they are businesses, and any business thinks about things in terms of quarterly or yearly profits. As a result, the goal is short-term profits, not long-term health.
For an example, let’s talk about hospitals. What is the profit source for a hospital? The number of beds that are filled, just like a hotel. All the incentives are there for a doctor to prescribe medication or try and recommend surgery versus recommending the good food in the first place.
This also takes place at the scientific levels. The amount of money spent on nutrition research is only 1% on that spent on medical research, despite the fact that about 70% of health issues can stem from poor or unsuitable diets.
This same issue extends to some of the knowledge commonly held about food. How many people remember hearing about the food pyramid in school, or perhaps their children’s schooling? Former USDA nutritionist Luise Light has gone on record to say that the original food pyramid had fruits and vegetables as a base instead of heavy carbs. It was lobbyists from the grain industries that had this changed.
“Where we, the USDA nutritionists, called for a base of 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, it was replaced with a paltry 2-3 servings (changed to 5-7 servings a couple of years later because an anti-cancer campaign by another government agency, the National Cancer Institute, forced the USDA to adopt the higher standard). Our recommendation of 3-4 daily servings of whole-grain bread and cereals was changed to a whopping 6-11 servings forming the base of the Food Pyramid as a concession to the processed wheat and corn industries,” she has explained.
Why is this so? The food industry makes the most money from carb-heavy and processed foods, some of the foods that are most likely to make you sick. This creates a perfect cartel of food and health companies that ultimately benefit more from your illness than your health, both in causing it any in treating it.
The Consumer’s Underserved Goals
Ultimately, the current system of healthcare has the individual as a passive cog. Health providers make purchases with money they get from insurance companies. What is already starting to happen is that consumers are starting to tip the balance towards healthcare solutions that benefit them directly.
For an example of how this has already happened, let’s look at the PC industry. Originally, Microsoft had a B2B approach, where PCs and equipment were mainly brought and purchased for companies, with Windows preinstalled. At the time, Microsoft had a near monopoly, but it wasn’t better or cheaper options that would end up disrupting it. It would be focusing on consumers versus B2B. Apple started to create a direct consumer computer, the Mac, that was designed for those who weren’t tech savvy. Fast forward today, and Apple has 30% of the market. This is one of the most prominent examples, but similar stories have played out in nearly every industry. Ultimately, consumer needs break up B2B niches. Healthcare is next.
In fact, this is already taking place to some extent. The food as medicine industry is currently bringing in $268 billion. This includes buying foods that are considered “healthy” or friendly to certain diets, as well as health, wellness, and fitness products. What’s notable about this is that this is generally coming from only four major categories:
- Overweight shoppers
- Diabetic shoppers
- Lactose-intolerant shoppers
- Gluten-free shoppers
This doesn’t even count all the people who are already healthy trying to stay that way through buying certain food. However, when it comes to finding the right foods, it’s not as easy as it seems.
How AI Bridges The Gap
There are different tiers to the difficulty of finding the right food for your specific needs. First is finding the things that specifically match certain requirements. For example, there are 30,000 new products in terms of food and nutrition each year. I am gluten-free and dairy-free, with a son who can’t eat eggs. Is it really feasible for me to read every label in the “sensitive diets” aisle to find something my family can eat?
Even if you don’t have sensitivities, there are tons of things we don’t think about when it comes to the ways food interacts with our bodies. Yes, we may think of nutrition. But what about the way it interacts with our microbiome? How about the impact stress may have on how we digest certain foods? Environmental toxins? Doctors and patients are working from the same base of information, but they need a way to access relevant information quickly. You can’t very well access a scientific database every time you go to the grocery store. Enter AI.
At Suggestic, we are currently working on AI tech that will determine what you should eat not just based on your nutritional needs, but your lab information.
For example, we hear that the Mediterranean diet is good for you. Specifically, studies have shown that this eating pattern can lead to longer lifespans via lowering risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death. This has many people changing what they buy and how they eat, but there are many different facets of the Mediterranean lifestyle that lead to your conclusion. People in Greece and Italy have different microbiomes and outside toxins. Many also fast and are less stressed. AI takes this real-life info, like the type you would find in online recipes or a restaurant menu, into nutrients.
The means are out there for people to learn about what they need to eat, but right now, it’s not reasonable to use because it is too fragmented. You have thousands of individual experts and influencers trying to sell their separate concepts and ideas. What AI does is pool all these together to create a guided lifestyle for people.
Ultimately, with this knowledge on demand, the average consumer is empowered to supersede a broken healthcare industry and take control of their diets.