The consumerisation of healthcare

We live in a world that is connected wirelessly with almost as many mobile phone subscriptions as there are people on the planet. For many years we have seen how the healthcare industry has been touched and defined by cutting-edge technology. The current landscape is full of inspiring examples of how technology is changing the most fundamental aspects of how we keep track of our own health, how we approach diagnostics, treatment and much more. It is widely acknowledged that the most disruptive innovation of healthcare technology is going to be mobile health (mHealth). It is already enabling a powerful consumer movement in healthcare and transforming the way medicine is practised. The ubiquity of mobile technology offers tremendous opportunities for the healthcare industry to solve one of the most pressing global challenges: making healthcare more accessible, providing better quality care and at a lower cost.

Today, both technologies and attitudes are changing, making mHealth accessible to a broader audience including physicians, nurses, patients, payers, healthcare administrators and, more prominently, consumers. The progress mHealth has made over the past few years will be eclipsed by even greater mHealth advancements in the next 18 months. 2013 will see the consumerisation of patient care in its true sense, enabling patients to make better choices as informed consumers about their healthcare delivery. We know that some providers have concerns about patients taking disproportionate control of their healthcare. This is historically a very paternalistic profession with a core belief that patients are not smart enough, educated enough or talented enough to really understand their own bodies and their own healthcare. But what we see is that the internet, and mobile in particular, has become so ubiquitous that consumers are now becoming, in many cases (and look no further than ‘Patients Like Me’ ), more educated than doctors about their own personal health issues. Patients can spend a significant amount of time researching their own problems and becoming experts in health-related matters, more so than a physician can.

The future for consumerisation of healthcare will eventually be self-diagnosis. e.g. patients going to see the doctor, having identified the treatments and procedures that they want – asking the doctor to confirm the diagnosis and to take care of them in a way that they have selected as their desired treatment option. Does this mean patients making bad decisions? Sometimes…maybe too often; but is that not better than an ignorant patient who makes no decision, who avoids the doctor? Surely it is better to have an educated patient who is not simply a receiver of care or a subject of research but an active, informed individual who wishes to understand their condition and exercise more control over their care? Technological advancements further support this argument. Look at IBM’s Watson supercomputer (artificial intelligence computer). It is already being positioned as a smarter successor to Siri and Google voice virtual assistant, gaining vast credibility for use in the healthcare industry, especially when it comes to diagnosis. IBM is testing a programme that would allow patients to detail symptoms to Watson and the artificial intelligence would then offer up potential diagnoses for doctors and patients alike.

As this field moves closer to realising its vast potential, (2013 will be a significant year) and we begin consistently delivering healthcare using these remote, virtual mechanisms, mHealth will become part of the everyday dialogue of healthcare rather than an interesting side note of digital health. It is about being connected, about making things available on all platforms and supporting it to become adopted and progressed over a lifecycle. mHealth is not just another app, it is a whole complete domain of internet communication technology for healthcare and how we really look at the future of healthcare and innovation. It is realising that it is solutions, not technology, that are the key to its success.

The mobile health space is thriving, and we will continue to see leaps forward in 2013, let’s just hope it continues that way.

If you don’t want your brand to be left behind in the mHealth revolution then Marc will be more than happy to help navigate you through this exciting time, you can contact him on 020 7148 0256 or email marc@thesocialmoon.com

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