There are several trends contributing to this. Firstly, consumers now have access to more information about health, and their own personal wellbeing, than ever before. Through the use of wearables and personal devices, consumers can access real-time data about their personal health metrics – making them much more informed and demanding patients. And these same tools can be used by healthcare services to monitor patients – allowing them to better understand risk and recovery.
The implementation of Big Data in healthcare is also allowing for more personalised care based on analytics. Algorithms fed with healthcare data have the power to determine the best treatment for individuals based on, for example, past procedures, genealogy and more. Big Data also holds the key to prevention – allowing professionals to map early warning signs of illness in patients. The knock-on effect includes reduced cost and burden on medical institutions by improving the overall wellbeing of society. Marketers should also expect to see a huge change in regulation to reflect the convergence of technology and healthcare, and the resulting risk to data privacy.
Automation also has a huge role to play in healthcare and will see humans and machines working alongside one another across a patient’s journey. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being tested for diagnosing illnesses, sometimes with better outcomes than doctors themselves. In fact, a group of Australian researchers this year developed an AI-powered smartphone app that can diagnose respiratory disorders by “listening” to the user’s cough. Additionally, Google’s DeepMind, partnered with Moorfields Eye Hospital in London to trial its screening system for over 50 sight-threatening eye diseases, with positive outcomes for efficiency and accuracy.
At the same time, robot-assisted surgery is a reality in many hospitals including Canberra’s National Capital Private Hospital and is seen to improve precision and control during operations. AI-equipped robots are also being used in care contexts to provide companionship and support for outpatients and ageing populations – trials of such care robots are occurring now in Japan.
A growing trend is telehealth – providing care for consumers in rural, inaccessible areas and vulnerable patients, as well as on-demand access to convenience-focused consumers. Telehealth allows healthcare professionals to communicate with patients remotely to diagnose and monitor conditions using video or mobile technology. It has efficiency benefits too, reducing time and cost needed to deliver care. According to Foresight Factory, one in four consumers globally has already used a chat messenger to speak to a health professional about a health issue.
How can brands leverage these trends?
Marketers should empower consumers to take control of their own health.
Consumers increasingly expect support with self-health strategies, whether this is through self-diagnosis home kits or in achieving fitness goals. With an increasingly stretched healthcare system in most countries, personal responsibility a necessity.
Consumers are also seeking accurate information and education about health to help them make informed decisions. Brands should help consumers take control in managing their own health to gain their trust and be the brand they think of when they do require outside input. Many personal devices now come with built-in health tracking services, giving users easier and cheaper access to their health metrics. Using this data, they can better track changes to their habits and their physiological markers. But tracking apps and devices should aim to go beyond simply tracking and allow users to set goals and measure progress towards them, complete with nudges and creative motivation to incentivise people to persist on their health journeys.