Kaiser Permanente- Physical Activity as a Vital Sign
Physical activity is a key component to maintaining a person’s physical and mental well-being – so why do doctors not use it as a vital sign? In the past, independent measures have been used including blood pressure and resting heart rates as indicators of health with the assumption that these measures are indicative of a healthy lifestyle. But without using participation or assessment of physical activity as a relevant component to health, how can a physician gauge all of the other attributes associated with active lifestyles; including positive effects on musculoskeletal function, systemic inflammation, stress, and psychological wellbeing.
Recent talk has surrounded using physical activity as a vital sign. Clearly sedentary living increases risk for disease and premature death so it is surprising it has taken this long for the concept to emerge. In response to this line of thinking Kaiser Permanente now offers a viable solution in which exercise habits and daily physical activity will be tracked in Kaiser’s electronic medical record system. Clinicians can then use the recorded information to help better counsel their patients and promote improved lifestyle habits. More importantly, the electronic medical record system will provide insight as to what motivates individuals to exercise and engage in healthier habits. A study published in December 2012 found that inquiring into a patients exercise habits resulted in weight loss in overweight patients and improved glucose control in diabetic patients, attesting to the effectiveness of Kaiser’s Permanente’s program. It is proposed that in the future insurance companies will take a much greater part in managing healthy lifestyle habits of their customers and plausible even assign premiums based on one’s overall health score. Functioning like a credit score, individuals who have low risk attributes will likely pay much less than their high risk counter parts. Therefore kicking the bad habits and adding routine exercise will have both a positive effect on health and one’s pocketbook.