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Guidelines for Successful mHealth Engagement

mobile-health-guidelinesWhile the American health system slowly, but surely, becomes increasingly tech savvy, the same cannot be said of all health care consumers. New mHealth technologies hold the potential for improving patient outcomes, but while many consumers are becoming “early adopters” of this technology, not all patients will be receptive to, or utilize, such tools.

According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, one of the patient populations with whom health care providers would most like to connect — people living with chronic conditions — are 17 percent less likely than other adults to have internet access due to age, income, education or other demographic variables. Yet, when they do have internet access, consumers with chronic conditions are 19 percent more likely to track health indicators than those without chronic conditions.

Clearly, there is an audience for mHealth apps. If you are considering developing or co-developing a consumer app or web-based strategy, you need to know which patients are most likely to adopt the technology and how to reach those who are not likely users.

Is Wearable mHealth Technology the Answer?

Since the launch of Apple’s HealthKit, the conversation has shifted to the next big tech launch — the iWatch. While no one doubts the tech giant’s ability to win over consumers, the question remains, “Can a smartwatch actually improve patient outcomes?” 

In a recent Health Data Management article, Harry Wang, director of health and mobile product research at Parks Associates, admits “The key is whether Apple will not only get the hardware/software piece right but also the right partnerships to help consumers with the motivational factors to positively change their health behaviors.”

His company predicts that by 2016, nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population — 32 million consumers — will use wearable devices to track their personal health and fitness.

Does that 10 percent of the population reflect the consumers that health care providers most want to reach? Not really, according to Greg Caressi, senior vice president of health care and life science at Frost & Sullivan.

The consumer market for these types of devices is relatively healthy and self-motivated to track fitness. He questions whether the user base for a consumer-based product will expand to “those who are the highest risk and highest cost.” Cool technology alone is not enough to attract the users health care providers want to engage the most.  

For example, some clinical trials have shown success at improving patient outcomes with a relatively low-tech mHealth solution — text messaging.

One study of diabetics found that patients who received text reminders about basic best practices — like checking blood sugar levels before and after physical activity — had significantly improved A1C levels after six months than those who did not.

The best results won’t be achieved by simply adopting the hottest consumer product, but by getting the right solution to the right person at the right time, positioned in a way that resonates with specific patient types.

Using Psychographic Segmentation to Engage Health care Consumers

Hospitals, physicians and health insurance companies that hope to engage health care consumers with mobile- or web-based tools need insights that go beyond typical demographics to identify and motivate the users they want to reach. A one-size-fits-all approach will be minimally effective, even if an organization is targeting a segment based on a shared diagnosis, such as diabetes. Not all patients with diabetes think and act alike, nor do they share the same root motivations.

The c2b psychographic segmentation model uses insights gained through in-depth market research to identify and segment consumers into five distinct groups with 91.1 percent predictability. Each segment is characterized by varying:

  • Motivations and behaviors related to health and wellness
  • Preferred communication styles and channels
  • Usage of apps and technology
  • Attitudes on health care reform
  • Preferences related to health care professionals and health insurance plans
  • Prescription and OTC medicine shopping habits
  • And more

There are distinct differences among the segments regarding app usage, and the messaging one would use to motivate patient activation.

With more detailed pictures of health care consumers, hospitals and other health care-related organizations are better positioned to design and market mHealth solutions that successfully engage users — even those who might otherwise be reluctant to adopt technology.

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

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