The expanding frontier of digital health is reinventing what is possible for consumer engagement. Modalities that were in the realm of science fiction a few years ago are realities today: activity trackers, wellness apps, chatbots that augment mental health services, algorithm-driven medical devices and virtual hospitals have all been successfully deployed. The exciting part? We have still barely explored what’s possible.
Sector convergence has been transformative. Led by the shift toward demand-driven health care and the opportunities other sectors see to improve the consumer experience and broaden our understanding of the social determinants of health, the way we think about health and health care is changing. New tools, data sources and business models are popping up every day. Health incumbents have much to learn about consumer engagement, user experience and the use of non-clinical data. New entrants, unused to operating in the heavily regulated environment endemic to the health sector, may struggle to keep their foothold. What can the health companies of today learn from consumer products, retail, technology and media companies (and vice versa) that can put health back on a sustainable trajectory?
Managing diseases in the short term, and achieving the long-term goal of wellness, means keeping people engaged with their health for extended periods of time. Traditional health companies struggle to do this. Consumer products companies, on the other hand, understand that attention spans can be short and the right kind of repeated contact can build trust over time. They have developed strategies to keep people engaged with their brand over a lifetime, and they can use that affiliation to drive behavior. This makes them a natural part of the market for lifestyle and disease management.
An obvious sticking point for anyone who has ever needed care is the overall experience. Care can be difficult to schedule, may not be conveniently located, is impossible to price (and may contain hidden surprises like unexpected “out of network” charges), may come with hard-to-swallow wait times, and comes with a panoply of providers who often don’t have all your information and aren’t well-connected to each other. Health consumers have had experiences in other sectors that allow them to buy goods, get a ride, order services and access their finances on demand. Payment is automatic and mostly transparent. Long a laggard in consumer experience, the health sector is waking up to the idea of care moving to anytime, anywhere and the larger role that newly empowered health consumers will play.
A variety of companies sell items that people use in their everyday lives: things for the home, the car, the office or the body. As more items become part of the internet of things, they can furnish data to care providers, delivering a holistic, panoramic view of health consumers: more information about a person’s lifestyle, environment, risks (genetic, socioeconomic, etc.) and supports. These data can fuel the shift to lifelong prevention and wellness, and create new markets for goods and services that capture value long before illness ever sets in. And as these new health services and products are created, consumer-savvy businesses from outside health can help bring them to market in ways that appeal to target audiences.
To hear more, join us at the Ernst & Young LLP sponsored session at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 January for a discussion of how consumer data is rewriting the rules for health care. Kristina Rogers, Carole Faig and I from EY, as well as Dr. David Rhew, CMO of Samsung, will describe how the convergence of health, consumer products and technology sectors will reshape the way we engage with our health, and what it means to be a health “provider.”
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