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The Patient-Centric Healthcare Revolution

VP Strategy

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The consumer-centric digital explosion transforming our lives has also heralded a patient-centric revolution in medicine. Let's see how their strategies coalesce and what the synergy means for the future of healthcare marketing...

As the encryption battle between the FBI and Apple continues, an astonishing statistic was recently shared at a press briefing focused on security: iPhone owners unlock their devices on average 8o times per day. That stat matches similar results from Pew Research that claim 46% of Americans “can’t live without” their smartphones, Millennials ranking the devices higher in importance than their toothbrush, deodorant, or automobiles.

None of that should come as a surprise in a world transmogrified by mobile, our phones virtually taking us wherever we want to go from the moment we wake up to the second we pass out from information overload, more than 70% of us actually sleeping with or next to one each night. The good news is humanity has never been more connected and empowered; the bad news is the resulting stress has precipitated the need for a #SleepRevolution.

Other profound consequences of digital dominion are the rise of the ePatient movement, and the inexorable transformation of medicine to an increasingly patient-centric model. Last week at the DTC National Conference in Boston the numerous dimensions of consumer engagement were discussed, from Big Data to micro-targeting; I had the privilege to cap the 3-day event by sharing the digital link between consumerism and health, summarized here.




Data Junkies

Audiences usually embrace humility, especially if they’re equally susceptible. So I began by confessing to my own digital compulsions, starting with the smartphone alarm clock that wakes me up first thing every morning—a habit shared by 90% of the audience who raised their hands in admission. And with the device in hand, who can resist the temptation of falling down the app-driven rabbit hole of complete and intoxicating digital immersion?

Yes, without even getting out of bed we ignore the sage advice of drinking green tea, meditating, or doing yoga, and instead commit the cardinal sin of immediately checking our work email. Once in, getting back out is impossible as we scan and interact with social media, news, the weather—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flipbook, updates from hundreds of sources national to local, business to pleasure, all still accessed from under the sheets.

The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland might have believed in six impossible things before breakfast, while we compulsively tap through at least sixty posts and comments. But we’re only just getting started, for the rest of the day our mobile devices never leave our pockets or are long out of our palms, the power of personalization, geo-location, and real-time communication turning apps into full-blown services for working, playing, shopping, dating, dining…

The amazing utility and sheer obsessiveness of our mobile apps belie the obvious: They have completely changed how we do our jobs, interact with others, and perform dozens of tasks throughout our day. Meanwhile every year the “What goes on in an Internet Minute” infographic blows our minds, the one for 2016 fresh out from Excelacom, the astronomical engagement stats defying imagination:




What’s particularly amazing is how each sliver is owned by a service—whether search, social, texting, multimedia streaming, product, etc.—driven largely or entirely by a mobile app. And each mobile app, in order to stake and hang onto its respective slice of the Internet Minute, must succeed in three areas: Tech Platform, User Experience, and Benefit. In other words, the app must be secure and flexible, easy and intuitive to use, and satisfy a pressing end-user need.

Another striking feature of the infographic is the complete absence of a health-specific service—especially striking considering healthcare is a $3.2 trillion industry consuming more than 17% of American gross domestic product. Sure, the use of health and wellness trackers is growing in proportion to the growth of the wearables market, but given the relative size and life-and-death importance of the healthcare industry, the absence is especially glaring.

Not without the industry trying, however: An IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics study last year revealed that more than 165,000 health and wellness apps are available, but only 36 of them account for half the downloads. Worse still, over half have limited to no functionality; less than 10% use a biometric device or sensor; less than 2% connect to healthcare systems; and more than 40% have fewer than 5,000 overall downloads.


Patient Champions

So what’s wrong? No one put it better than boxer Mike Tyson when he said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” What’s punching mobile health in the face is a series of challenges ranging from privacy to security, regulatory to interoperability, usability to monetization. HIPAA certification, end-t0-end encryption, the FDA; hundreds of EHRs, confusing systems, and high risk investing have lead to a KO in the second or third round.

To the rescue is the proven success and pressing critical mass of the consumer-centric digital revolution. Hundreds of millions of end-users already accustomed to apps-as-services now demand healthcare-as-a-service-app. After all, no industry is more data-centric and hassle-prone as health, none so perfectly and urgently suited to personalized, geo-located, real time interactivity. Fortunately, the underlying digital strategy is identical, paving the way ahead.

Back to the prerequisites for a successful app: Tech Platform, User Experience, Benefit. If a healthcare app is to similarly flourish, it too must be secure and flexible, intuitively designed, and providing a discrete value. We can imagine what such an “Uber of Healthcare” might be like: The patient at health system center, in seamless control of every journey milestone from doctor visits to lab results, treatment to reimbursement, ongoing adherence to aspirational advocacy.

Deconstructing each necessary element and providing a best-in-class healthcare example can perhaps provide a hint of what such an ultimate healthcare app might be like: Tech Platform, User Experience, and Value—Apple CareKit, HealthTap Chatbot, and Circulation, respectively. A quick look at each case study not only helps the industry to fight back, but begins to provide a vision of what success looks like, and how healthcare will finally regain the title.


Flexible Tech Platform: Apple CareKit

CareKit is the new software development kit (SDK) from Apple that lies between the third-party data aggregator HealthKit and the clinical resource ResearchKit. So far consisting of four functional modules that can be customized to condition-specific need, CareKit provides healthcare app developers with a built-in dynamic data dashboard, biometric sensor integration, analytics reporting, and connectivity to health system stakeholders.




Taken together, CareKit offers an ideal tech platform to build powerful, customized, and secure patent-centric apps for specific healthcare needs. With applications already demonstrated in diabetes, post-surgical, and maternal care, CareKit hold tremendous promise in providing a technological foundation for the development of increasingly robust apps that place the patient in the driver seat of their own healthcare data and its many interconnected services.


Compelling User Experience: HealthTap

Usability remains as important as back-end power, flexibility, and functionality, especially in healthcare where patients require health-literate information presented in the simplest, most actionable, and intuitive manner possible. The constantly evolving digital universe puts added pressure on designers to appease and entice increasingly picky users, users in turn fickle about embracing creative changes to screens they visit upwards of 150 times per day.


HealthTap HealthBot


HealthTap exemplifies a fascinating convergence of consumer- and patient-centric usability, the first Facebook Messenger “HealthBot” and poised to redefine how patients seek and interact with health information. Rather than tap multiple apps or struggle with a navigational hierarchy, patients simply type in colloquial questions that are processed through an AI and answered via personalized data curated by thousands of physicians.


Value-Driven Service: Circulation

The concept of an Uber-like app for healthcare has already been realized by—drumroll, please—UberHealth. Masterminded by Dr. John Brownstein of the Biomedical Informatics department at Harvard Medical School, the pilot program intriguingly used Uber to deliver vaccine administration house calls. Its success dovetailed into Dr. Brownstein’s next project, Circulation, designed to provide a new vision for non-emergency transportation.




Operating with a strategy similar to Uber, Circulation is an app that enables patients or their caregivers to call to schedule an appointment, authorize eligibility and transport, connect most suitable car with riders, and safely get the patient to their destination. HIPAA compliant, the app has the potential to help more than 3.6 million patients who otherwise miss their appointments due to transportation challenges—while revolutionizing healthcare as an effective digital service.


The Quantified ePatient

The fourth and most important element of any successful health app is the end-user, the patient. Their compelling evolution into the “ePatient”—empowered and electronic—has developed in parallel to the progressively more discriminating digital consumer. Given their many similarities, their futures will converge at a point where differences cease to exist, healthcare becoming as personalized, immediate, and simple as most other services.

Along the way apps will vanish in the same way portals such as Yahoo were replaced by search engines like Google; in their stead sophisticated chatbots will evolve to assess need and provide value. As the diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention of disease become more dynamic, responsive, and automated, healthcare marketers—exactly like the consumers and patients they target—will become increasingly empowered and electronic.

Coming around full-circle, content strategy for patient-centric healthcare is becoming indistinguishable from consumer-centric digital marketing. Living on a modular and scalable tech platform (ideally within the cloud), engendered through an intuitive and simple user experience (eventually an artificially intelligent bot), and designed for a singular health purpose (to improve and extend life), the future should give pharma marketers cause to celebrate.

Here at Klick Health we inoculate our clients against any uncertainty by being the agency of the tomorrow, today. Understanding key trends in science, communications, and technology, we connect the dots and see where the lines will cross. With the express goal of engendering positive behavioral change, we embrace new opportunities for providing contextually relevant and hyper-targeted information that lie at the heart of patient-centric medicine.

Until we reach the goal of the quantified self, our apps and gizmos remain a brilliant but sometimes distracting and potentially destructive means to an end. As Arianna Huffington implored at our most recent Klick MUSE NYC, a balanced life is the one most worth living. Joining the #SleepRevolution helps give us all a good night’s sleep, and maybe dream of a world where managing our health and engaging our patients become equally natural and intuitive.




More About the Author

Michael Spitz

A digital health expert since before digital health was cool, Spitz has since developed omnichannel campaigns for top pharma and device brands, and helps drive agency innovation, digital transformation, and emerging channels. See him present at conferences, read his blogs, and follow him for the latest trends and opinions on Twitter @SpitzStrategy.

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