TREND: Healthcare Meets Wellness–Recent Signs of a New Convergence

Our 2021 trend “The Self-Care Renaissance” argued that a new era was upon us–one where the complementary yet often combative relationship between medicine and wellness gets rethought, leading to new conversations and convergences between these two worlds. The pandemic was the shock that has forced healthcare to finally focus on prevention and more holistic models of medicine. At the same time, wellness companies are increasingly forced to embrace some hard science and evidence–as silly wellness fads now feel “so 2019.” 

When the Global Wellness Summit kicks off one week from today (December 1-3 at the Encore Boston Harbor and virtually), the new connections between healthcare and wellness will be a key topic. The conference has never brought together so many top doctors and scientists (from Harvard, The Cleveland Clinic, Stanford and Pfizer) to explore how evidence-based wellness will become a more important force in healthcare, public policy, digital health and even Big Pharma

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To tee up next week’s discussions, we thought we’d look at just a few recent moves that illustrate this new convergence–and what analysts now say about the future.  

Analysts predict spending shift from “cure” to wellbeing: More healthcare analysts forecast a shift from spending on “sick care” to spending on prevention and wellness. In early 2021, Deloitte made some very bold predictions for the post-pandemic US healthcare market, that oddly few people in the wellness world picked up on. If in 2019, 80% of health spending went toward cure and treatment, Deloitte predicts that by 2040, 60% of spending will shift toward proactively improving total wellbeing (wellness-focused areas will eclipse treatment-related expenses by 2033). In their model, this creates a massive “$3.5 trillion wellbeing dividend.” It’s definitely an ambitious prediction, but if even half the spending shift proves true, it would be a revolution. Nielsen IQ just released a report also exploring how the idea of health as fast evolving towards a world that is more wellbeing focused.  

Wellness companies lean harder into science: After the serious health crisis we’ve suffered, hyper-consumerist wellness products with no evidence feel not just wrong, but offensive. So, more wellness companies are leaning into science and holding themselves accountable. Just one example: probiotic company, Seed, is all about collaborating with scientific research partners to develop their products–and they created Seed University, where their partners have to take educational courses and pledge to stick to the science and facts on social media.  

Integrative models in mental health: The promised land of a more integrative approach to health is happening even faster in the mental space, where new models and online platforms are combining traditional mental health approaches (talk therapy, psychiatry) with diverse tools from the mental wellness arena, including meditation and sleep support. One recent example: mega-meditation-app, Headspace, just acquired the mental health digital platform, Ginger.io (which gives easy access to behavioral health coaches, therapists and psychiatrists), to create an integrative model.  

New partnerships: Health insurance companies are increasingly partnering with wellness companies (and covering their services for members) while wellness companies are making some moves in medicine. Two examples: global insurance giant, UnitedHealth, just gave members free access to a Peloton digital subscription and fitness brand, CrossFit, just launched “CrossFit Precision Care,” which incorporates genetic analysis, blood tests, wearable data, and consultations with primary health doctors.  

Big Pharma and wellnessThe Global Wellness Summit will explore how even Big Pharma and wellness are not strange bedfellows anymore, with a panel of top pharmaceutical executives on a new convergence. One perhaps unexpected direction: the startup, Genexa (who just raised $60 million), aims to deliver “clean pharmaceuticals” by eliminating artificial ingredients in over-the-counter medications.

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