Brenda Campbell

Digital Health Realities in a Connected World

I recently attended the Connected Health Summit hosted by Parks Associates in San Diego (#CONNHealth16). This conference featured some of the movers and shakers in the industry, highlighting the explosion of access to health related information on the web, the increased use of connected devices, and the potential impact of connected homes on health services. The sessions and exhibitors showcased numerous advances despite the serious challenges the health industry has had keeping up in the increasingly on-demand, informed, and empowered world.

What do I mean by on-demand and empowered? I can request a private car, order sushi, download the latest movies, learn Korean, pay my bills, and order groceries all from the comfort of my couch.

We’ve moved away from being fine with waiting for service and being at the mercy of someone else’s expertise. Servants to the process, if you will, and we’re over it! It’s exciting to see these new expectations for on-demand service and accessibility to information are becoming increasingly prevalent in hard-to-reach industries that have been slower to adapt to the changing consumer landscape. One that is of particular interest to me these days is healthcare and wellness, and the 2016 Connected Health Summit was a great opportunity to check in on its progress.

Here are four key takeaways from the Summit:

1. Patient experience first!

Healthcare and wellness is shifting from a provider model to value-based care and a patient centric model. This shifts focus away from the traditional approach where the doctors/processes were king, and emphasizes more prominently on the evolving needs of the patient’s overall experience. Patients are expecting on-demand access to care and being empowered to make decisions. They want to understand how they are doing and what they need to do next in a very easy to understand way, rather than being bombarded with complex medical jargon, countless forms, and complicated processes. Patients want care to be easy, quick, and accessible.

Rather than being at the mercy of the providers, payers, and clinicians, patients want to become more active, engaged, informed, and masters of their own care. It is interesting to note that the majority of health management is in the hands of the patient, with 95% of their care being self-driven and self-administered after they leave the hospital.  Yet, for many it’s too hard and they often fail at it.

2. Big Brother is watching.

Who is adopting IoT for the connected home may be surprising! The decision maker in the wellness movement is mostly the caregiver. “27% of U.S. consumers are caregivers or future caregivers,” according to Parks Associates: Connected Health Summit – Engaging Caregivers. As family members are becoming elderly or are faced with chronic diseases, caregivers are given the challenge to determine the best way to keep track of their loved ones in a non-obtrusive, easy to monitor, easy to install, and understandable way.

Caring for an aging or ailing family member is sometimes a blow to the patient’s ego. To balance things out, a connected home may be the key to monitoring family members without hitting on their pride. Having the ability to see if your aging parent has used the restroom today, moved around, or be alerted when they have fallen, or have not been active provides huge benefits. Giving the patient freedom, and the caregiver peace of mind.

Being a caregiver is difficult, but having tools like beacons, sensors, monitors, and other at home trackers to help transition to that role in a clear, affordable, and reliable way adds a level of comfort and confidence that can be a game changer for us all in the future.

3. So much data, so few insights shared.

Data accumulated by all of the players in the space is abundant, but it isn’t shared, and often does not result in meaningful or actionable insights. Many connected health companies and health providers collect a wealth of data, yet have no clear analysis path and provide no way for patients and the community to take meaningful action based on this data. Some companies are holding their data close to their chests, while others simply don’t have a good way to share. Perhaps, by making it easier for providers to quickly see valuable correlations between patient behaviors and their wellness will prove valuable. Solving the big data problem, fragmentation woes, and lack of analytics for providers will be crucial in the days ahead. While at the same time, giving patients insight into their personal wellness to track improvement and make meaningful decisions will be critical for the expansion and evolution of the digital health experience.

4. Hardware is hard.

Kids don’t want a machine that makes them feel different. The elderly don’t want to be weighed down, reminding them that they no longer have freedom. Other adults don’t want yet another piece of hardware to carry around or remember. Discretion with the hardware to support chronic diseases is key. This is why many manufacturers are turning to mobile experiences, discrete bodily embedded monitors, or other non-obtrusive options. I’m looking at you electronic medical history (EMH) tattoo.

I see hope for the future of healthcare. We can shift gears in this space, but it will take some focus — a focus on user experience, insightful analytics, empowering solutions, and discretion.

Image courtesy of Arek Adeoye for Unsplash.

Brenda Campbell

Brenda drives strategic user experience and product definition for L4’s clients. Over the last decade, she and her teams have built product solutions for internal tools and services, digital advertising and monetization, payments products, and web and cross platform mobile solutions in various industries. When she isn’t working with her teams to build great products, she enjoys movies, camping, and gardening, and dreams of owning a dog.

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