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Can Consumer Gadgets Help Us Improve Patient Health?

patient-healthAn apple a day keeps the doctor away. It’s a familiar old saying, but it’s also one that may have new relevance when innovative tech leader, Apple, releases its HealthKit with the new iOS 8.

While details on the pending HealthKit are sparse, the service promises the potential for greater connectivity between patients and their care providers by sharing data from personalized health apps. As this new data source merges with the extensive data hospitals and individual physicians already collect, the challenge health care providers continue to face is finding a way to better utilize these data.

A deeper understanding of the patients likely to use a service like HealthKit is critical.

With the help of psychographic segmentation, providers can identify which patients are likely to be early adopters or laggards, and reach out to patients with the right message via the right channel to turn interest in sharing health data into proactive management of personal health.  

Growing Popularity Does Not Guarantee Use

There is no shortage of mobile health (mHealth) apps available to consumers. NPR recently reported on an IMS Institute for Health Informatics study that identified more than 40,000 health care apps available right now for download on Apple’s iOS platform.

A deeper look at those apps is revealing:

  • Approximately half of the apps categorized as health or fitness are actually more closely related to fashion or beauty.
  • 16,275 apps are intended for consumers.
  • 7,407 apps are intended for health care providers.

Apps for the Android platform are available in nearly as high numbers — over 33,000 — but 50 percent of them have been download 500 or fewer times.

In its “Global Mobile Health Market Report 2013-2017,” research2guidance notes that while utilization may still be spotty, mHealth is definitely on the rise:

  • The mHealth market is expected to reach $26 billion globally by 2017.
  • Consumer mHealth downloads to the Apple iOS platform have reached 3 million free and 300,000 paid downloads.

However, though consumers are downloading mHealth apps in record numbers, usage isn’t exactly meeting expectations.

Citing the IMS report, NPR focused on some of the reasons that health apps aren’t translating to healthier consumers. Consumer confusion, limited functionality and a lack of proof that an app is effective can lead users to abandon an app. Moreover, consumers who might benefit most from effective apps — such as the elderly with chronic illnesses — are not as likely to be smartphone users.

A service like HealthKit may help address functionality. 

Apple has announced deals with EHR-maker Epic, the Mayo Clinic and Nike, suggesting that the company wants to gather input to improve features and functions. Once functionality meets expectations — including addressing HIPAA compliance issues — hospitals and physicians will need to find ways to encourage patients to take advantage of the apps and share their health data.

Identifying Motivations to Drive Usage

As we have mentioned in a previous blog, even the most ardent smartphone users may not be inclined to leverage mobile health apps. Likewise, while the elderly may not be the fastest adopters of mobile technology, there are segments within aging populations that might be more likely users of mHealth apps.

As health care providers celebrate Healthy Aging® Month throughout September, they need to tap into information that can guide them to better ways to reach out to these individuals. By understanding consumers beyond superficial market demographics, health care providers will be better positioned to help increase mHealth app usage, as well as to take advantage of the shared data to improve patient health.

Hospitals and physicians already have deeper insights that can be mined from their own data, such as health care utilization. But understanding utilization alone still doesn’t provide the needed insights to help drive patients to use mHealth apps and then leverage the data in order to improve outcomes.

Instead, health care providers need to market to consumer segments based on their shared values, principles, personality traits and lifestyles.

This unique approach to consumer segmentation requires a more in-depth understanding of individuals to establish key motivations. For example, psychographic segmentation can separate consumers who are self-motivated, proactive and wellness-oriented from those who are more reactive and require encouragement to motivate behaviors.

As NPR suggested in its report, this just might mean engaging “the biggest stakeholders” in a person’s health — like a loved one. Informed by health data and using psychographics-based marketing, hospitals, physicians, pharmacists and health insurance companies can fine-tune who receives what messages to ensure that mHealth achieves the desired purpose– improving wellness.

To learn more about successfully marketing to today’s health care consumers, visit c2b solutions today.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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