by Dr. Gregory Bayer

Brain health, which has for many decades been seen as a far outpost on the fringes of healthcare, is now one of the fastest growing sectors of the Digital Health industry. According to a recent report by independent analyst, SharpBrains, brain health will be a $3 billion industry by 2015 and double to $6 billion by 2020.

But perhaps more so than mere economic value, the sheer size of the market articulated by SharpBrains is best expressed in terms of the numbers of patients whose conditions are now being addressed by the brain health sector’s market leaders.

It is estimated that some two billion worldwide, one-third of the global population, suffer from brain-based health and productivity challenges with a related cost burden of more than $2 trillion. The broad scope of this market is emphasized further when consideration is given to the widely different types of brain-based solutions that are now being offered to divergent patient, consumer and corporate audiences.

Indeed, the innovation that is driving brain health and wellness is set to take to the stage at the upcoming Digital Health Summit at the International CES. A number of the brain health market leaders identified by SharpBrains, including top 5 companies Brain Resource and Neurosky, as well as Heartmath, are all bringing unique first mover approaches to well-known health problems including stress, Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and anxiety.

So how does a brain-based solution deliver real outcomes in dealing with a chronic condition such as stress, which in the workplace is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work, and stress reduction efforts?

Workers in high-stress jobs visit health care professionals 26 percent more than workers in the low-stress job category, according to a recent study. Indeed, stressed out workers are increasingly turning to health professionals for physical, mental and emotional issues.

This is where brain based health solutions are reinventing the approach to what is a chronic and growing problem in this country.

Although many Americans recognize that stress can have an impact on their health and well-being, they don’t always take action. We know that too much stress or prolonged periods of stress can be bad for your health. Many people who experience too much stress can end up with chronic illness such as depression, obesity (leading to type 2 diabetes) and heart disease. Research has shown a strong and consistent link between stress and overall health.

Training the brain to have a positive outlook can help people deal with stress more effectively, which can build resilience and may also lead to personal success. That’s why more and more employers are looking for better ways to engage employees in wellness programs, and turn wellness information into action.

According to SharpBrain’s report, the corporate wellness market is predicted to grow in the U.S. to $3 billion within the next five years. Excitingly, a growing number of marquee companies like Aetna and Nationwide Insurance are now choosing brain health options to reinforce and improve the efficacy of their corporate wellness programs, expanding their offerings to help their members or employees deal with their stressors by focusing on the positive, increasing well-being, and promoting resilience.

Nationwide conducted a case study to determine the efficacy of a comprehensive brain training program among its employees. It found that the employees had a 5 percent increase in positivity bias, 9 percent increase in emotional resilience and an 8 percent increase in social skills after participating in the brain training program. Nationwide also found an 8 percent improvement in presenteeism and a 5 percent reduction in absenteeism among its highest risk employees.

According to Kathleen Herath, associate vice president of health and productivity at Nationwide,

Once we started using brain training, we were hearing from our employees that it was a welcomed offer. That it was ‘more than just fun’ and ‘really made a difference.’ And interestingly enough, the people who were participating were among our highest risk associates who had not yet started costing us claims dollars, which made us ask: Who is the population that you want to get a hold of? Turns out, it was exactly those folks. Now we’ve found them, and we’ve found what appeals to them.
Brain training is backed by years of research. Promising outcomes and key insights are emerging from clinical studies that inform new approaches to managing stress, dealing with depression or changing unhealthy habits. Knowing the brain interprets any change as threatening, for example, suggests it is important to learn by “doing not just by informing” — a key insight for wellness and behaviour change programs to adopt. Through brain training, employees can develop core capacities that support making healthy choices, including the ability to focus on tasks, learn from mistakes, overcome impulses, tune into the positive, manage stress and develop resilience.

Brain training is a useful complement to corporate wellness programs and can help facilitate a readiness for change. The online games, videos and interactive tools are backed by scientific evidence to help employees reduce stress, focus on setting and accomplishing goals and increase productivity. These outcomes are a return on investment companies appreciate and contribute positively to bottom line performance.

This blog is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post on the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013), the behemoth consumer-electronics trade show held annually in Las Vegas. To read other pieces in the series, click here. What are your thoughts on CES? We invite you to submit pieces of 500-850 words — for possible publication in The Huffington Post — to [email protected]

This article is written by Dr. Gregory Bayer, CEO of Brain Resource. He will be delivering a keynote session titled “This is your Brain on Tech” on Jan. 9 at 2:05 p.m. in Las Vegas Convention Center, North Hall, N250. Dr. Bayer can be reached at [email protected]

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