The Connected Healthcare Consumer

By HMS
Aug. 13, 2019

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The ‘Who-What-Where’ of the Connected Healthcare Consumer

At the beginning of the year, we forecasted some of the top healthcare trends to expect in 2019 — first among them that the connected healthcare consumer would be a driving force in the industry.

Now that we’re about three-quarters of the way through the year, we’re checking in not just to say our prediction has come to pass, but to take a closer look at how exactly the concept is coming into play — and how the connected healthcare consumer will continue to evolve.

As engagement becomes ever-more critical in the shift toward patient-centered care, reaching today’s healthcare consumer is only half the battle. Leveraging data and analytics to understand the needs of our patients and members — and employing innovative solutions that allow them to connect on their terms — is key to boosting engagement and outcomes.

Wearable health technologies, virtual care programs and data-driven engagement strategies are just a few ways healthcare organizations can embrace the connected health movement to better serve their consumers.

Who Is the Connected Healthcare Consumer?

As consumers of healthcare ourselves, the short answer is that the connected healthcare consumer is all of us. While needs and motivations vary widely among individuals and populations, approaching each interaction with empathy — from the consumer’s perspective — is what allows us to create positive experiences that inspire action.

That being said, the connected healthcare consumer isn’t necessarily someone who already exists; rather, it is our responsibility as an industry to implement personalized strategies and solutions that create this type of environment. Let’s consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Mary is 75 years old living with COPD. The FDA recently approved a wearable remote monitoring device that collects and analyzes data on key vital signs for COPD patients. The device then shares the data with the patient’s healthcare provider, highlighting any clinically-relevant changes or signs of deterioration.

Mary has heard of something called a wearable, but has only really explored the idea when holiday shopping for her grandkids. Chances are, she’s not considering that one of these devices could potentially aid in her treatment.

In an ideal connected care environment, Mary’s healthcare provider, who is up-to-date on the latest healthcare innovations, would recommend the device to Mary. From there, her health plan would help her secure one, and her provider would continuously monitor the data it provides to ensure her levels remain stable between appointments.

Scenario 2: Robert is 45 years old struggling with insomnia. He’s also trying to be more active during the day, and has been using his smart watch to track his steps.

Upon doing some research, Robert suspects that his sleeplessness may actually be caused by sleep apnea — and that his smart watch may be able to help his healthcare provider diagnose and treat his condition by sharing valuable information on his sleeping pattern.

 Robert is equipped with the knowledge and resources to take control of his health. In this way, he’s the embodiment of the connected healthcare consumer. But what Robert and Mary’s examples make clear is that there is no prototypical “connected healthcare consumer,” nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare consumer engagement. Understanding and evaluating the needs of the individual is critical to implementing the most effective (read: comprehensive) approach.

Top Trends Driving the Connected Healthcare Movement

The prospect of the connected healthcare consumer is an exciting one and should serve as a goalpost in the ongoing shift toward value-based care. Continuous innovation in the field has rendered the list of emerging technologies infinite. Here are a few of the top trends we’re seeing that are driving the most success.

  • Wearable medical devices that collect and analyze data for better diagnoses, treatment and intervention.
  • Mobile apps that facilitate seamless communication between patients and care teams, allowing providers and health plans to deliver critical health information when and where it matters most.
  • Personalized communications that take into consideration who you’re talking to and how the person is likely to receive the message.
  • Patient health portals that accept patient-generated health data (PGHD) for a more whole-person view and resulting care plan.
  • Connected in-home devices that promote adherence to medication, identify potential risk and enable timely intervention.
  • Telemedicine or telehealth programs that provide access to healthcare information, resources and even care without a patient having to enter a doctor’s office.
  • Ride share solutions that help patients who lack means of transportation access the care they need.
  • A customer service mindset that places the needs of the patient at the center of every touch point.

Taking a High-Touch Approach to High-Tech Engagement

Innovation in the healthcare industry has given us the means to connect with the modern healthcare consumer in ways like never before. But with this capability comes a different challenge — one of cutting through the noise to deliver relevant information and personalized support in a context that matters to the person on the other end of the phone, screen or desk.

To truly connect with our consumers, listening, learning and engaging must be universal considerations throughout any healthcare organization. This patient-centric mindset, combined with the adoption of data, analytics and technology-driven healthcare solutions, will continue to drive meaningful change in performance and quality.

How are you embracing the connected health movement in your organization?

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