An aging population, the explosion of healthcare costs, the growing deficit of healthcare professionals, unhealthy lifestyles for some but higher consumer emphasis on health and
wellness for others … these are just some of the trends we’re seeing that put
pressure on our healthcare system. The healthcare industry must tackle these
challenges, led either by itself or by its consumers, in order to prepare for
An experienced healthcare management consultant, David Dimond, knows the level of
disruption that healthcare has been facing for the past few years and
acknowledges that technology represents the best enabler of these necessary
changes: “IT is the catalyst, not the constraint.”
Searching, integrating and sharing information are the three consumer needs where
technology can help drive innovation and adapt communications. In the 15 years
since the first Direct-To-Consumer pharmaceutical ad hit the marketing world,
consumers have radically changed the way they handle their own healthcare.
Search engines and YouTube have become the first stop for triage. Google Health
has placed medical record ownership in the patients’ own hands. Communities
like PatientsLikeMe are creating bonds among patients suffering from similar
conditions. To borrow a phrase from Microsoft Health Innovation Lab’s Director
Mike Gillam, we are moving to the age of “health in the cloud.”
People are spending a tremendous amount of time in a never-ending search for information about all-things-healthcare, from treatments to diagnoses to wellness tips.
Indeed, this is supported by a Pharma Connect Study that MPG conducted last
year of the most influential media touch points; respondents ranked informative
websites about a specific disease as the second-most important source of
information (45%), after a discussion with a physician.
Information integration is very much driven by consumers’ wish for simplicity, as well as
the industry’s desire to improve healthcare efficiency. We see this changing
through corporate innovations like Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault, as
well as by the $27 billion investment the U.S. government has set aside to
develop healthcare IT over the next 10 years. This will lead to major progress
in doctors’ collaboration, the end of repetitive tests and better
cost-effectiveness as test results can be shared among many healthcare
Increasingly, patients are sharing information, talking to other patients, and exchanging
information with various specialists, as well as specialists communicating more
often directly among themselves. Some brands have already started to recognize
this and respond accordingly. For example, the HPV vaccine brand, Gardasil, has
collected 100,000 fans on Facebook. The diabetes products line, OneTouch, has
fostered an online community of hundreds of thousands people with diabetes.
Weight-loss pill Alli offers guidance for an entire lifestyle. This
“Nike+ization” of healthcare is full of opportunities for healthcare
providers if they manage to become part of the conversation. It could help
rebuild trust among patients, doctors and pharma companies.
And even then, there is still so much more technology and communications could
enable: remote access to healthcare with providers like American Well, epidemic
tracking with Google Flu Trends, the MIT New Media Medicine’s research on
“collective discovery” by harnessing the massive collection of
patients’ “everyday experiments”…
These technologies and innovation are here for the taking. The question then becomes
— to what extent will regulatory challenges, privacy requirements and costs
hold back this evolution?