Digital Healthcare – Healthcare in the Hands of the Patient

With the fast changing digital world, time has come to transform the way we view healthcare. In recent years, the healthcare industry has been significantly impacted by the increasing demands of digital consumers. A very clear marriage of digital consumer and of digital penetration in healthcare is shifting patient monitoring, diagnosis and in certain cases treatment to the hands of the patients from clinics and other healthcare delivery centers. These are done through analytics and big data, machine learning, EHR, telemedicine, wearables and a host of other methods. These, in turn, will lead to more predictive, quick, accurate, efficient and cheaper healthcare for all.

‘Customer journey’ is the buzzword, as companies need to pay more attention to the customer experience over a channel-oriented view. An interface that can focus on the sales force as well as customer interactions can be one of the strategic moves; as the impact of a healthcare solution (product or therapy) depends on the ‘patient experience’ to a large extent, rather than its clinical efficacy.

Leaders in healthcare are embracing this change and developing a deep understanding of the channels of interaction and also thinking through ways to reduce turnaround time for responding to consumer queries. It is palpable today how these companies need to think as a marketer does. They need to not only define a target market but also research on their buying trends. To be able to interact with them whether directly through apps or web services, or indirectly make adverts a pull factor, when consumers are looking at healthcare options or upping their wellness quotient, will separate the best from the rest. With already over 50,000 apps in the market and over 90 percent of adults literally living a “mobile” life, it is imperative that healthcare firms come up with practical and easy-to-use mobile strategy.

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Medical technology is indispensable to improved quality of life and it also brings in millions of dollars to the economy. When it comes to healthcare, innovative technology can bring many benefits to the table. Investment in digital and mobile health and in related technologies is robust and growing. The maximum growth in the area has been in direct-to-consumer technologies that don’t directly have to be dealt with physicians—fitness trackers such as FitBit and more complex ones such as remote diagnostic equipment, requiring a doctor’s prescription. Direct-to-consumer technologies come with the ability to scale quickly while intermediate ones have a good cost-reduction potential.

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The insights on consumers are often collected through disjointed sources from inside and outside of the organization. But with such a huge database comes a great responsibility of finding ways and means to manage it effectively. Data insights are insightful for providing key insights about consumers, so it’s important to filter out the key data points and also ensure they are kept secure. Also, what organizations often forget is that a complex technology isn’t what consumers are interested in, but rather an easy-to-maneuver one. Analytics need to be kept a check on. Every business is different.

But all healthcare organizations need to take note of how consumers turn to the internet for looking up reviews on providers and treatments. Convenience and easy accessibility is something every consumer is looking for. If you give them a forum to find out the A to Z of healthcare options, your brand gets elevated instantly. Before tech-savvy and financially sound consumers begin to create their own health-management digital systems, the healthcare firms that are already thinking ahead may be able to nudge them toward comprehensive health-management ecosystems.

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The full potential of technology is yet to be unlocked and the following questions could be the key:

  • Who needs to pay for digital healthcare applications?
  • What evidence of effectiveness is required to justify reimbursement?
  • What conditions are to be levied to provide health app startups with a sustainable business model?

Instead of thinking only from a competitive point of view, a healthy collaboration between providers and digital-health companies is the need of the hour. This can be achieved by enabling the sharing of health data through an open innovation platform by a national or federal health system. This could form base for digital healthcare innovation by certified third parties.

We can’t deny the many barriers that need to be overcome before the effectiveness of digital technology is proven. Technology still has lot hidden red flags. Human intelligence can never be replaced by mechanics. A misdiagnosis can lead to severe damage and one has to be cautious about the dependency on technology. IT platforms are still needed to consolidate data and integrate it with customer experience across e-platforms. Concerns about information security also can’t be ignored.

The impact of tech-enabled healthcare ecosystems may not be felt for the next few years. However, providers and insurers need to start preparing for the change.