Health for the digital consumer

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Health for the digital consumer

Lindsay R. Resnick

Executive Vice President, Wunderman Health

Healthcare’s ‘innovation index’ is off the charts. The variety and velocity of innovation sweeping across the healthcare landscape is unprecedented. Categorized as “digital” or “connected” health, with solutions labeled “HlthTech” or “MedTech,” we are seeing a broad range of innovative consumer-focused approaches that reduce health expenditures, improve quality of life, increase productivity, manage chronic conditions, and extend life expectancy.

The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is the showcase for both startups and established companies alike leveraging technology to empower healthcare consumers. These companies are breaking down barriers with wearables, blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, virtual reality, and voice technology. This year, CES featured more devices that give individuals access to health information – their own personal data. Leaders of the pack are finding ways to use data to inspire and motivate individuals to make positive (and long-term) behavior changes to manage their own health and wellness. It takes a lot more than simply sharing data to trigger improvement.

It’s not digital health...its health for the digital consumer!
While still early in the connected health movement maturity curve, consumers are the driving force. Today’s always-on digitally empowered consumers are beginning to use their newfound influence to choose, challenge and change the conversation with healthcare brands…payer, provider, pharma and retail. As they set expectations, they’re making comparisons and judgements on how connected health companies stack up against their favorite digital brand performers. Whether GenY, Millennials, or Boomers, they will not engage with the healthcare system as it presently stands. Consumers of every demographic are ready to embrace innovation and are willing to be more engaged with their health through telemedicine, wearables, self-service kiosks, virtual health, sensors, and remote monitoring.

“We live in an age of convenience retailing - - where is it more convenient to shop than at home?” Lester Wunderman, October 1961

Many technology solutions showcased at CES this year were designed to help consumers take ownership of their health, to make it easier to self-diagnose a condition or symptom, change a health habit or behavior to reach a goal, enable compliance with a course of treatment, or interact with their community of care providers. It’s the value of ‘innovation with a purpose’ – technology that empowers, informs, instructs, tracks, guides, or reminds. The goal is sustained engagement that allows consumers to manage personal health challenges and navigate the intricacies of a very complex financial and clinical ecosystem.

But alas, for many consumers it’s still a dilemma of ‘health inertia,’ resistance or unwillingness to face personal health challenges, adhere to a plan of action, or stay motivated to proactively deal with their health. Successful digital health brands recognize this challenge and are seeking to forge emotional relationships with consumers to motivate better health decisions and beat health inertia. They leverage data and predictive analytics to better understand how people view their health in order to create personalized, compelling content that influences decision-making and inspires individual action…what’s important to people, what truly matters to them and why they do what they do.

In the early years of digital health much of the focus was on tools, apps, and trackers that informed people of their health status. That alone is not enough. Now, we’re seeing current solutions designed to inspire action or remove barriers. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used to help people receive “personalized” care, help them identify the right doctors and discover the most relevant support communities. Leveraging personalized perceptions and emotions have the greatest influence on consumer behavior—a gut-level appeal that moves people to act, adopt technology solutions, and stay engaged is what matters. Health innovators must aim to connect to their customers around relevant motivations and deep, sometimes even unconscious desires and personal values like freedom, happiness, self-esteem, life goals, or the ability to be a better parent or partner.

Digitalization, disintermediation and disruption
In today’s contentious, politicized healthcare sector, digital health companies are rapidly transforming business models, resetting value propositions, and reimagining customer journeys. As this happens, these types of health companies have an unprecedented opportunity to emerge as trusted, go-to community resources that help consumers take responsibility for their health by supporting personal care choices.

As part of the next revolution, CES showcased tools that aimed to not only educate but motivate behavior, such as rewards for better self-management and ‘community’ connections to people with similar motivational profiles—not just same health condition. Compared to past investments that have been focused on treating patients once they developed a condition, more emphasis is now placed on wellness, fitness, and preventive health, and on sustaining better health habits to reduce the cost of care, helping people live a longer, qualitatively better, life.

Healthcare is ripe for innovation. Led by entrepreneurs and risk-takers, connected health companies are making stunning advances in cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, behavioral health, and wellness and prevention. They are delivering value to customers, broadening access to care, and improving health outcomes. CES offered a glimpse into how these companies are doing it in ways that change how health care is delivered in the future: replacing healthcare insecurity with healthcare confidence.