yet2 Insights: The Future of Health and Nutrition

The Era of Personalization

The following article is the first in a series of blog posts looking at the future of different industries. These insights are a result of a break-out session during yet2’s global team offsite, where yet2 technology consultants from all three regions (US, Europe, and Asia) gathered together to discuss the trends and developments in health/nutrition, IoT (Internet of Things), Energy, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The following focuses on the future of health and nutrition.

yet2 works extensively with global leaders in the areas of health and nutrition, and our clients have noted the following trend: the emergence of personalized health, directly linked to the digital health boom. We work with many of our clients to innovate in this area, helping them stay on the cutting edge of technology.

We are standing on the cusp of a new era for health. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), the preponderance of health and behavioral data, and significant breakthroughs in medical research are coming together to truly change how we see health and make the shift towards both personalized medication and personalized nutrition possible. Wearables are commonplace in developed nations, syncing with other platforms that aggregate and analyze data. Breakthroughs in DNA sequencing has led to faster and cheaper methods, allowing many consumers to unlock the key to their genes or trace their ancestries. This, in combination with apps and smart phones that allow users to track their food intake, and sensitive environmental sensors that can alert consumers to environmental conditions, have allowed users to now take their health into their hands in ways that were not possible before. Diagnoses that factor in environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors tend to be more accurate, and trend towards earlier detection,  thus leading to more effective prevention or treatments.

At least in the near future, it will.

There are some problems the industry is still struggling with and will need to overcome. For example, the industry needs to address:

  • How to deal with the plethora of data being collected. Platforms are currently being developed to combine and analyze data and spit out personalized recommendations to consumers or to their healthcare providers. Today’s research strongly suggests that one person’s reaction to a particular food will not necessarily match the next person’s reaction. This is due to environmental, genetic, microbiome and physiological (including physical activity) factors. The industry must develop algorithms to make recommendations on the interaction of all of the data, and they must be tested, validated, and backed by science. yet2 is aware of many research institutions already undertaking this massive initiative.
  • How to make data private and secure. There is much that can be said about this issue from the perspective of consumers, companies, and government regulatory bodies, but we’ll only mention it here as a major issue that must be analyzed, agreed upon, and then enforced for the field to move forward.
  • How to sync all healthcare systems, from behavioral data collected from consumers to insurance, drug makers, and hospitals and doctor’s offices. Syncing all systems would allow doctors to easily get a more complete picture of their patient, thus allowing a more accurate diagnostic, and would help consumers adapt behaviors to prevent onset of diseases they are more at risk for.
  • The continual advancement of technological developments so that more data can be collected non-invasively, conveniently, and at an affordable price point for consumers, healthcare providers, and insurance companies. For example, there are a variety of biomarkers in blood, urine, and sweat that can help inform health. Another area of interest is the microbiome – both the gut and skin microbiome. Tools to more conveniently measure gut microbiome (lacking the yuck factor of fecal sampling) in a more frequent fashion (say, every day or every week instead of once every year) can prove to be a powerful factor as research reveals the extent to which the gut microbiome influences our health. And while the tools are being developed, research to understand optimal gut composition based on a variety of other factors (like your genes) is needed to make the data useful.

We look forward to the continued progress towards truly personalized health.  And maybe one day, we will find ourselves in an era of connected and personalized health, where disease prevention instead of treatment is the name of the game. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.