Sarah Kellett, retail consultant, Fujitsu UK&I explains why UK retailers need to do their bit in creating a healthy nation – and the part technology can play.
The UK is in a troubled situation when it comes to its nation’s health. The ways in which people take care – or neglect to take care of themselves – is causing serious health issues. Take diabetes, for example – one of the UK’s biggest health challenges. Since 1996 the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has increased from 1.4 million to 2.9 million. By 2025 it is estimated that five million people will have diabetes. Most of these cases will be Type 2 diabetes, because of our ageing population and rapidly rising numbers of overweight and obese people. There has also been huge growth in complication rates during this time. Diabetes is now the single biggest cause of amputation, stroke, blindness and end stage kidney failure. Diabetes is big, is currently growing out of control – and currently accounts for around 10% National Health Service (NHS) budget. This equates to over £25,000 being spent on diabetes every minute.
However, when we look to the East –specifically to Japan, we see a very different situation. This is a country which puts great emphasis on its nation’s health – and while it spends half as much as the US on healthcare- still manages to boast longer life expectancy. Its cheap and universal health system, kaihoken is often cited as the reason for this success. Japanese people see medical professionals twice as often as Europeans – and take more life-prolonging and life-enhancing drugs. Rather than being pushed out of hospital beds, they stay three times as long as their counterparts in the West. The country boasts one of the lowest infant-mortality rates in the world. But beyond kaihoken, there is a culture in Japan which has a strong emphasis on prevention of ill health and disease. People tend to eat healthy foods, smaller portions and stay fit.
When we examine some of the services available to the Japanese –you can see how they also contribute to the stark contrast in statistics. Karada Life Diabetes Support, introduced 18 months ago, is a cloud-based service for diabetics that lets them use their mobile phones to record and manage health-related data, from blood glucose readings to exercise figures. Users can monitor their statistics graphically, making it easy to check their status several times a day. This data exists in the cloud, meaning users can check their data via a PC, email it to family members, and, if desired, have it printed and delivered to their homes if they have no printer of their own. Its ability to address a wide range of patient needs has been really well received.
If the UK followed suit here – and started to adopt some of these innovative technologies which help people maintain and manage their health – we should see a drastic change in some of our more negative statistics. And while this would be a long-term plan, where results would not be achieved overnight – I truly believe that with industry-wide action – we can achieve this. With better legislation from the government around prevention and management of diseases such as diabetes – the situation would improve. The government is cranking up the pressure with regulations around food labelling – so as a nation we’ve started to move in the right direction.
There is a huge opportunity here for the retail community – who have a part to play in this move towards a healthier UK. We’ve seen retailers diversify into many different marketplaces – from finance to travel – so this feels like an appropriate move. It has the ability to deliver these services to customers. It is also sitting on a wealth of data about these customers, through points and loyalty card schemes – so is in a strong position to get involved.
By getting involved in ehealth, retailers can take customer care to the ultimate level. It presents an opportunity to gain trust with customers where it has previously been lost – and play an important role in bringing about a prosperous and healthy society in the UK.
Photo credit: Polycart on Flickr
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