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Inflection Point: Digital Health

VP Strategy

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Mary Meeker’s much anticipated Internet Trends report describes 2017 as a milestone year for digital health, citing an exponential rise in data from wearables and apps, coupled with increased consumer openness to the sharing of health information. Let’s check it out…

Digital technology continues to evolve how we live and work, the astonishing transformation captured and quantified within the year’s most compelling slide deck. Watch Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ partner present at the annual Code Conference in California, where she blazes through 355 slides in about 30 minutes: The legendary internet analyst reveals a global digital ecosystem that exponentially accelerates human potential across every industry—with a special focus in 2017 on healthcare.

Continuing along the trajectory of last year’s trends, the implications for the health and wellness vertical go beyond paradigm shifts in advertising and brand trends, and the re-imagining of communication channels and interfaces. Sure, focusing on mobile-first strategies, contextual relevance, and innovative opportunities such as voice and bots are gaining in importance—but most significantly, the report describes Healthcare @ A Digital Inflection Point, characterized by a five-step “Virtuous Cycle of Innovation”:


Digital Inputs: Rapid Growth in Sources of Digital Health Data

Over the past two decades, the most widely utilized medical technology has steadily shifted from analog to digital. X-Rays, ECGs, blood pressure meters, and hospital monitoring devices have respectively evolved from 2D to 3D, paper-based to wearable, manual to automatic, and in-room to remote. The increasing prevalence of digital diagnostic, sensing, and administration tools has created a tsunami of health data, further accelerated by the slow but steady growth of wearables, more and more of them containing various biosensors.



As the big tech companies wage their “Wearable Wars,” the consumer electronics revolution has not only shifted end user behaviors, but the willingness to share personal health data. Surveys reveal more than half of consumers would share some form with Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple, positioning them and others for progressively increasing roles in healthcare management, treatment, and prevention. The potential for healthcare marketers is compelling, as audience targets become more accessible and more willing to engage.


Data Accumulation: Proliferation of Digitally-Native Data Sets

Not only are health data sources in digital form increasing in number and bandwidth, but so are “digitally-native” channels, including health apps, electronic health records, and digitized hospitals. Although ensuring relevance, engagement, and safety has plagued mobile health for years, global use of health and wellness apps has shown impressive 15% growth, cracking well over a billion downloads. Meanwhile, EHR adoption has reached close to saturation levels, data elements per patient expressed across the gamut from clinical results to images to Rx.



Since 2013, hospitals providing digital access to healthcare information has increased by seven-fold, creating more than 50 petabytes (million gigabytes!) of data per institution. The overall growth of available healthcare data is increasing by more than 48% annually, totals now measured in hundreds exabytes (billions of gigabytes). Such a tumult holds tremendous promise for savvy healthcare commercialization partners able to provide contextually relevant messaging directly to physicians and their patients at the point of care.


Data Insight and Translation: Impact on Therapeutics

The rush of information is also reflected in medical research, exponentially increasing to the point of doubling now every few years, analogous to gains in technology. But the stubbornly persistent hurdle remains clinical trials, phases 0 to 3 spanning an average of over 12 years for a new drug—most never making it that far. The good news is enhanced data streams, facilitated by selection biomarkers via DNA sequencing and publicly available clinical trial results, all increasing the proliferation of data, leading to cheaper and faster trials.



As we’ve seen, the impact and opportunities for healthcare can be profound. Given today’s dynamic market, only adaptive brands can survive, differentiate, and flourish, using data to create customized, personal experiences for their consumers. From development through launch and into maturity, data helps maximize patent life; and from symptoms through diagnosis, treatment, and adherence, data helps extend patient life. The two strategies are complementary and symbiotic, capitalizing on data input, accumulation, and translation.


Data Insight and Translation: Impact on Healthcare Delivery

Heightened consumer engagement and faster innovation cycles make a big difference for healthcare delivery, as patients expect digital services akin to Amazon and Netflix. Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and especially Millennials are seeing less and less of a difference between the speed, personalization, and ease of ordering food, a car, or a video—and making a doctor’s appointment or accessing lab results. That enthusiasm is reflected in their increasingly enthusiastic use of digital tools, including wearables and telemedicine.



The result is re-imaged healthcare practices that leverage data to optimize outcomes. From small and nimble startups to big momentum tech behemoths, the “Quantified Health Grand Prix” is off and running, bringing out the best in those companies smart and creative enough to understand and utilize data. Success stories already include improved diagnostics and hyper-targeted treatments; crowdsourced information sharing and device-driven disease prevention. The right treatment to the right patient in the right way at the right time is becoming an everyday reality.


Outcomes: Compressing Innovation Cycle Times

Less than two decades ago, sequencing the human genome took years and a hundred million dollars. Now decoding is done in hours at a hundred-thousandths the cost. Plot that on a graph and genomics is progressing faster than Moore’s Law in tech, similarly reflected in the increasing number of diagnostic tests and personalized medicines. The rapid evolution of complex laboratory research to consumer healthcare product has not only revolutionized genomics, but exemplifies the ascendancy of digital health across the entire patient journey.



The “Democratization of Digitization” leads to more informed consumers who in turn embrace advances in technology—and a willingness to share personal health info in ways once considered impossible. For healthcare marketers, Meeker’s “Inflection Point” holds tremendous potential for engaging and empowering patients, caregivers, and professionals like never before. On an enterprise level, providers and payers throughout the health system already embrace digital as a means to enhance value and improve outcomes.


Klick Trends: Inoculating You Against the Future

Here at Klick Health we track not only macro trends like those summarized here, but dive deep into the data for micro-insights that are hyper-focused on your adaptive brand, targeted audiences, and competitive market. Are you signed up for the Klick Wire to receive your weekly dose of the latest news and innovation? Is your agency partner a true healthcare commercialization expert, able to connect the dots between insights and outcomes? Now is the time to reach an inflection point with your partners, and choose Klick Health!

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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