Wellness in all its forms, financial, mental and physical, has rightly become a hot topic in workplace advice. Barely a week goes by without a new or enhanced service being announced. But I believe we are just scratching the surface of what can be done with the right use of data.
Just before Christmas the FCA release its Call for Input for its Open Finance project. Open Finance can be a genuine force for good that can empower millions of consumers and their advisers. Or will the main UK banks be able to strangle the project and continue to put their profits first and the consumer last? That said, as currently constituted, the FCA project excludes missing data from many sources which could have a hugely significant impact on improving the nation’s health and wealth going forward.
The present focus is on financial data but many other forms of data are relevant to consumers’ health and therefore connected to their wealth. Many organisations make use of and monetise this data for their own benefit to the detriment of consumers. I’m thinking particularly about the information supermarkets amass on our buying and eating patterns.
It is recognised that for the NHS to be economically sustainable it needs to evolve from being focused on treatment to prevention as the primary method of healthcare. Advances in medical science make this far more viable than it might appear today. Because of the scale of our national health service the UK has become a global leader in many areas of advanced and predictive testing for a wide range of conditions. These can identify an individual’s personalised future health risks early enough that they can be encouraged to modify behaviour and avoid or at least reduce the impact of future illnesses. The UK biobank project for example includes 500,000 citizens who have agreed to share their medical data for analysis.
About 20 per cent of people now use a wearable health tracker. These provide a stream of simple health data, although this is not yet at the level that a GP might want to include it in their medical records.
In the very near future such devices will become far more sophisticated and be able to deliver information to the accuracy and quality that clinicians need to make detailed medical assessments. The Cloud DX Vitaliti Tricorder is a great early example of this.
Even before this is available there are current wearable devices that can provide individuals with valuable clinical insights based on their personalised health. A great example is the DNABand from DNANudge.
This wearable device can be bought from their Covent Garden shop or online. Users provide two mouth swabs of DNA which is then analysed and a personalised report on how DNA impacts your nutrition is sent to an app on your mobile device. The wearable can then be used to scan the barcodes on any foods you wish to buy and will indicate with a green or red light if the food is suitable for you personally, given your DNA. The device also tracks your level of activity and depending on the amount of exercise taken or not, guidance on the consumption of different foods varies. This is a great example of how access to good health information is becoming increasingly available to those who want it.
The supermarkets have been systematically poisoning us all for decades, plying us full of unnecessary sugar and other unhealthy food, with their two-for-one offers and other deals to maximise their profits with scant regard for their customers health – putting profits before people, just like banks do.
At the same time they have learnt how to profit hugely from the use of customer data on buying habits. It must be time for payback. It should be the consumer deciding who can access this data.
In the near future an individual’s health records and personalised testing data will become a key component of the fact find process. As people live longer we need to better understand their personal health if we are to be able to give accurate guidance on their future wealth.
Large supermarkets invariably have FCA authorisations for some part of their operations so the regulator could and must extend the scope of their open finance project to include all data that can be relevant to the consumer’s health, as increasingly understanding health becomes a key determinant in planning and giving the best guidance on wealth and wellbeing.