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What’s Next for mHealth as Consumer, Provider Views Approach Parity?

doctor-coming-out-of-mobile-phoneIt’s an annual tradition. Every January, industry pundits turn into fortune tellers and share their predictions for the coming year. Sometimes they miss the mark. Last year, for example, not one marketing expert interviewed by CMO.com mentioned ‘digital transformation.’ As it happens, digital technologies and channels completely disrupted traditional marketing models in 2014 — an almost viral growth that earned ‘digital transformation’ the top spot as 2015’s buzz phrase.

The health care industry will not be immune.

The spread of digital is driven by consumers — the same consumers that are already driving transformation within the health care industry. So, how can insights from marketing help hospitals and other health care-related enterprises use mHealth for improving patient outcomes?

Getting On-Board with Big Data

Health care providers may have been slow to join the big data movement, lagging behind other industries and even their own patients, but that attitude is changing. Reporting on a new study from PwC, MedCity News cited several significant findings.

  • 50 percent of physicians believe that e-visits or telemedicine are viable substitutes for more than 10 percent of in-office visits.
  • Nearly 66 percent of physicians are open to prescribing an app to help patients manage chronic disease.
  • 79 percent of physicians believe that mHealth enables better care coordination.

In fact, the percentages above show just how far health care providers have come in embracing digital technology, in some cases surpassing consumers. While the number of consumers with a health care, wellness or medical app on their smartphone rose 12 percent last year, up to 28 percent, only half of consumers expressed confidence that mHealth will lead to better coordination of care.

The challenge for providers will be connecting with consumers via their preferred channel — whether that is digital or traditional.

Daniel Garrett, health information technology practice leader for PwC US notes, “Digitally-enabled care is no longer nice-to-have, it’s fundamental for delivering high quality care. Just as the banking and retail sectors today use data and technology to improve efficiency, raise quality, and expand services, health care must either do the same or lose patients to their competitors who do so.”

How Marketers Expect to Connect

In consumer-driven health care, organizations ranging from hospitals and pharmacies to mHealth app developers need to take a page from a new playbook. So what advice can marketing thought leaders offer?

  • Putting together the right team is crucial.
    According to Chris Curran, chief technologist at PwC, “Cross-functional teams will lead to more wins in the market.” While he may have been referring to marketers, the same applies in health care. We already recognize that interoperability is a huge challenge. Bringing all the right players to the table and developing a more collaborative environment will ensure that health care organizations can make better decisions for improving patient outcomes and managing population health.
  • Becoming consumer-obsessed is a necessity.
    The chief technology officer for Blast Radius, Gautam Lohia, sees understanding consumers and their unique experiences as critical to success. “Look for unmet needs and new ways to serve consumers. Lead with the customer, not tech or business silos.” He notes that’s exactly how Apple, Uber and other consumer favorites gained their leadership positions and transformed what consumers expect from other organizations competing for their business.
  • Personalization is crucial for meaningful engagement.
    The one-size-fits-all approach won’t work anymore. CMO.com founder Steven Cook cites leading brands — like Netflix, Amazon and Facebook — as ones that have gotten personalization right.  For health care providers and others in this industry, that means taking advantage of psychographic segmentation to better understand, and connect with, patient populations based on their motivations, lifestyles and attitudes towards health and wellness. Without more targeted, personalized approaches, efforts for improving patient outcomes are likely to be less effective. As PatientBond has found in its extensive market research, one psychographic segment may prefer text messaging, while another segment wants a website to explore, while another segment requires more traditional, paper-driven communications.  And as Michael Zuna, the CMO of Aflac suggests, “Brands that can harness this personalization at the moments that matter (to their customers) for their businesses will win.”

In the end, improving patient outcomes is about getting the right solution, to the right person, at the right time.

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

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