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What Apple Can Teach Healthcare Providers About Winning in the Marketplace


In brand popularity contests, Apple often leads the pack. Just this year, Apple landed on the top of Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” list and in the top five of the Harris Poll’s Reputation Quotient. As healthcare consumerism continues to gain momentum, hospitals need to earn similar accolades to stay ahead in a competitive marketplace.

“A lot of times, people don't know what
they want until you show it to them.”

But the win that hospital’s might want to emulate most is Apple’s ranking as the world’s most intimate brand. Why? The study, conducted by Praxis Research Partners, focuses on the emotional bond brands create with customers—bonds that drive engagement, customer satisfaction and trust. And Apple excels at making that connection with its innovative products, attention to experience and use of consumer data.


Three Lessons for Healthcare

Can you imagine patients camping out for days in order to be the first to tour a new hospital wing or try out a new healthcare app? Let’s face it: Hospitals rarely generate the kind of buzz that gets people hyped up for the launch of a new service or product. Apple, on the other hand, has developed such a loyal fan base that the release of each generation of iPhone or Apple watch attracts a throng of customers anxious to get “it” first.

How does Apple do it? While hospitals and personal tech may seem like apples and oranges, here are three lessons healthcare can learn from Apple.

1. Keep it simple

Consumers want easy-to-use products, and Apple delivers. Smartphone novices and aficionados alike appreciate the elegant, intuitive interface. The simplicity extends to Apple’s product line-up which avoids the clutter of different models and features. Instead, Apple has the iPhone—period. Options are limited to color, size and memory capacity. Not only does this uncomplicate consumers’ decision-making process, but it also allows the company to focus on building the best possible version of the iPhone.

Hospitals can benefit from this type of approach when it comes to addressing patient needs and expectations. Healthcare consumers want options, but they do not want to feel overwhelmed by them. By keeping it simple—whether you’re developing a tool to help with diabetes management or implementing an online scheduling or bill payment system—empowers patients to manage their healthcare more effectively.


2. Build a better experience. 

The Apple experience isn’t limited to consumers’ interactions with their iPhones or watches. Anyone who has visited the Apple website, called Apple customer services, or visited the Apple store to shop or get assistance with a problem interacts with the brand. It’s important to keep in mind that a brand isn’t a product, a logo or a jingle; a brand is the sum of experiences at all touchpoints a consumer has with your product or service.

Several healthcare organizations have taken inspiration from the in-store experiences offered by Apple. Take Forward, a new San Francisco-based healthcare startup. With a motto to “move forward with your health” and mobile-enabled experiences for patients, Forbes writes that “Forward’s vibe is more Apple Store than doctor’s office, more quantified self Shangri La than clipboard and paper chart grind, and, when it comes to pricing, more Netflix than insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays.”

Patients—or “members”—pay a monthly fee of $149 that covers the initial workup featuring a full-body scan, bloodwork, and genetic tests, as well as doctor’s visits, email access to Forward’s medical staff, ongoing monitoring through wearable devices and some prescriptions.


The reception at Forward, a new kind of tech-enabled medical practice in San Francisco ➜

Adding to the experience, the data gathered at the greeter’s desk is transmitted to the exam room before patients walk through the door, ensuring doctors have a comprehensive picture of each patient’s health to facilitate the patient-doctor conversation about any diagnosis and treatment plan. And before patients walk out the door, they have a wearable device that will continue to send healthcare data to the doctor, to support a continuing relationship focused on prevention and wellness.

As Dr. Aaliya Yaqub, one of Forward’s doctors, says, “Your visit with your doctor is not the end of your physical for the year—it’s a continual process.” A complete makeover, however, isn’t practical for most hospitals. Instead, hospitals can use psychographic segmentation and healthcare consumer data to adapt interactions to meet patients’ unique attitudes and motivations when it comes to health and wellness, whether it’s through a website, an email or a face-to-face visit. By meeting patients on their own terms, engaging them according to their own communication preferences, a healthcare provider can better personalize patients’ experiences.


3. Use data effectively. 

fitness-apple-watch.gifSurprisingly—especially for a tech company—Apple didn’t lead the way when it came to using data to understand its users. In fact, referring to market research, Steve Jobs famously stated, “A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.” The slow start is evidenced by the popularity of non-Apple apps—for maps, list-making and more—that quickly earned loyal followers over Apple’s built-in offerings.

But Apple is now moving ahead with big data-enabled solutions, and with millions of dedicated users, the company has an unending stream of data to tap. In fact, with its launch of the Apple watch a few years ago, the company has set its sights on healthcare data and analytics. 

healthcare_divider.pngBrian Kalis, managing director of digital health services at global consulting firm Accenture, notes that “Beyond its more expected uses, Apple’s HealthKit, CareKit and ResearchKit also are being tested to collate data and monitor patients remotely among some of the U.S.’s top hospitals: Stanford Medicine, Oxford and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.” The expectation is that digitally-engaged patients will provide the data needed to generate “useful insights” for healthcare providers.  

Taking a page from Apple’s playbook in terms of delivering positive patient experiences can help hospitals stay relevant and competitive in an evolving marketplace. Inspired by an experience leader and informed by healthcare data and analytics, hospitals can drive ongoing engagement, loyalty, and trust to improve patient experiences and outcomes alike. 

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


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