As patients today track their vitals on smartphone apps, use the Internet to research symptoms and communicate with physicians through social media, mobile technology is poised to play an ever-larger role in a patient’s health care experience—and 2015 will bring even more change, experts say.
Here, health care marketers weigh in on the mobile-driven trends to come in the year ahead.
1. Health care will become more than a face-to-face experience. While in-person treatment is vital for a broken arm or surgery, mobile tools can be effective in helping patients lose weight or manage Type 2 diabetes, for example, says Joseph Kvedar, director for the Center for Connected Health at Boston-based Partners Health Care. “Seventy-five percent of our costs are chronic illness, and the key to managing chronic illness is lifestyle alteration and adherence to regimen,” Kvedar says. Some devices, however, can be weak motivators, so marketers should also encourage the use of physical reminders, phone conversations or in-person meetings to ensure success, he adds.
2. Patient-recorded data will be part of the conversation. Patients today are using mobile devices to monitor fitness, heart conditions, blood glucose levels, weight and other vital signs to help manage chronic diseases. In 2015, marketers will need to find ways to engage and empower patients with this type of data, says Harry Greenspun, senior advisor of health care transformation and technology at Deloitte’s Center for Health Solutions in New York.
3. Connectivity will become the norm. Mobile tools will become the primary driver of communication between providers within health care systems. For example, a program at Massachusetts General Hospital allows physicians to send photos using their smartphones to one of the hospital’s dermatologists. The dermatologist can then provide treatment recommendations to the physician or suggest that the patient make an appointment with a specialist. Services like these help speed up treatment, save money and boost patient loyalty, Kvedar says.
4. Patients will drive health care transparency. Fard Johnmar, founder of New York-based digital health consultancy Enspektos and co-author of “ePatient 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Healthcare,” refers to the demand for increased transparency as the “401(k)-ing” of health care. When employers moved from pensions to 401(k)s, employees were forced to educate themselves on investments, and now, the same situation is beginning to happen in health care, Johnmar says. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, many patients are shopping for their own insurance plans and looking more closely at health care costs, and the industry will need to become increasingly more transparent as organizations compete for business based on cost and patient value.
5. Health care technology will have a wider reach. Mobile adoption in health care has been largely driven by tech-savvy, health-conscious early adopters, but marketers have started working to increase mobile’s reach among the rest of the patient population. According to Kvedar, this means that marketers must work around such issues as low Internet connectivity and cultural preferences to boost mobile use among all generations and socioeconomic status. “As health care providers, we can’t confuse success with the challenges that we have motivating patients to do things,” Kvedar says.
This article was originally published in the November issue of the Marketing Health Services e-newsletter.
About the author:Julie Davis is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. She can be reached at [email protected]