AgeLab Science Lunch Series Hosts Dr. Elgar Fleisch
by Adam Felts
The AgeLab held its first in-person science lunch of the post-COVID era, inviting Dr. Elgar Fleisch, Professor of Information and Technology Management at ETH Zurich and University of St. Gallen (HSG) and Director at the Institute of Technology Management, to speak about the use of new technologies to facilitate preventative medicine among business actors and consumers.
Dr. Fleisch’s largest lab, the Center for Digital Health Interventions, investigates how digital technologies are changing our healthcare system, specifically devices that are able to monitor our health and provide guidance for our health behaviors.
Preventative medicine, Dr. Fleisch noted in his talk, has largely been neglected by the healthcare industry. One reason, he said, is the challenge of turning preventative medicine into a business. By easily and affordably quantifying patients’ biomarkers and showing the relationships between those biomarkers and health outcomes, it becomes possible to show the value of preventative health behavior – and give patients the tools to more effectively engage in that behavior.
Dr. Fleisch presented several monitoring tools that his lab has studied. One test, that could have applications in the workplace, has the user trace an outline with their computer mouse—the speed and accuracy of the tracing correlates to level of stress. An employer could use this tool, or one like it, to monitor employee stress and burnout and perform targeted interventions (perhaps as simple as suggesting that an employee go home and rest) for workers who need them. Another tool he described is a monitoring system that tracks purchases at the grocery store, providing a score (and a nudge) for the shopper’s food choice. That data could further be used as an incentive by (beneficently) affecting the user’s health insurance rates – bringing together consumer, business, and health.
Dr. Fleisch’s latest book is The Digital Pill: What Everyone Should Know about the Future of Our Healthcare System. His talk at the AgeLab was organized by Pnina Gerahon and Bruce Mehler.