LAS VEGAS – If health information technology can do half for the healthcare system what it did for the financial industry, the increased efficiency could reduce U.S. health costs by $1 trillion over a decade.

Still, the lack of emphasis on wellness programs — which focus on prevention rather than treatment — is jarring and can be summed up with two numbers.

On average, self-insured employers spend $4,000 per employee per year on healthcare, but just $220 per employee on wellness programs, said Dr. Peter Tippett, vice president of Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions, in a presentation at this week’s HIMSS health IT conference in Las Vegas. 

But for that savings to be realized, wellness programs will have to make heavy use of the cloud.

That’s because the cloud possesses several key characteristics that make it a huge boon to wellness programs: It’s everywhere, it’s always on and it’s secure and reliable.

The optimal wellness platform will assess patient health risks, offer targeted lifestyle modification programs for those patients, and leverage the cloud to connect patients to resources like mobile apps and videos that help them make those life changes.

But it’s not as easy as just giving patients a mobile app or referring them to a website, Tippett said. As an example, he shared a story about a simple program he designed for a diabetic patient.

Tippett told the patient she could eat anything she wanted, whenever she wanted, in whatever amount she wanted as long as she followed one rule: Never eat when the TV is on.

The patient agreed to follow the rule and eventually lost about 100 pounds.

“My point is, whatever it is we think of is going to work for a few people but not most,” Tippett said. “We need to make this flexible to figure out how to make compliance easier for everyone.”

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