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How brands are reimagining the digital health experience

Robotic surgery, 3D-printed prosthetics, and bionic organ transplants — modern medical technology can do the seemingly impossible in pursuit of saving lives. Yet as public attention is focused on innovation within health-care settings, the most profound advancements are those that affect patients well before (and often long after) they land in a doctor’s office or hospital room. These innovations aimed at improving the health experience are poised to transform the health-care industry from the inside out — and it’s easy to see why.

According to a recent Black Book survey, 92 percent of health-care consumers believe that improving the health experience should be a central focus when deploying digital health-care tools. This same survey found that 90 percent of patients feel no obligation to stay with a provider who does not offer a satisfactory digital experience.

The message is clear: modern health-care consumers expect exceptional care not only within hospitals and doctor’s offices but also beyond them. Health-care brands have no choice but to change the way they think about the health journey. From leveraging wearable technology to self-service digital pharmacies, here are some of the ways companies are bringing the health experience full circle — and shaping the future of the industry in the process. 

Wearable wellness

Millennial health-care consumers are changing the way physicians and patients approach wellness. Studies exploring the shopping patterns of millennials suggest that this generation is more health conscious than any other generation before it, opting for health-focused diets and lifestyle choices — even when those choices cost them more money.

So it comes as no surprise that millennials are harnessing wearable tech to monitor, track, and analyze their health in real time — and brands are taking notice. The Apple Watch 4, released in September 2018, includes a built-in electrocardiogram that notifies wearers if it detects signs of an irregular heartbeat that would warrant a doctor’s visit. In response, insurer Aetna announced plans to subsidize the cost of Apple Watches for customers to support better health outcomes.

Consider how brands could significantly improve outcomes through wearable tech by creating more proactive wellness scenarios for patients. Imagine if data gathered from these wearable devices could help physicians by reminding patients of upcoming appointments, alerting them to possible health issues that even patients aren’t aware of, and even empower them to better diagnose and monitor patients with concrete data. Health-care brands that actively promote their customers’ overall well-being would ultimately boost loyalty and remain top-of-mind when their patients do fall ill.

Self-serve healthcare

The self-reliance revolution has given rise to everything from online stylist services to AI-powered banking apps, but no industry has felt the impact of this trend more profoundly than health care. In the era of WebMD, health-care consumers are seeking answers via digital channels before heading to their doctor’s office (and sometimes in lieu of a visit altogether).

Brands have responded by offering their own healthcare portals that balance the benefits of a digital self-serve environment with expert advice. Insurance provider Oscar, for example, allows users to chat with physicians about their health questions and concerns without ever having to make an appointment. The app even integrates with a phone’s built-in pedometer to track steps and reward users for hitting certain milestones.

Health-care brands that utilize digital channels in this way are doing more than improving patient outcomes. Because customers will pay more for a fast, intuitive experience, innovative health-care brands such as Oscar are also boosting their bottom line.

Digital prescriptions

Even beyond the health-care setting, patients are turning to digital solutions to circumvent time-consuming visits to the pharmacy. Startups such as ScriptCenter MX and SpotRXare virtually eliminating the need for customers to ever directly interact with a pharmacist by replacing these interactions with digital kiosks and mobile apps.

These automated pharmacy machines (APMs) are popping up in office buildings, gyms, and even apartment complexes so that customers don’t need to venture beyond their daily commute to pick up prescriptions. Plus, research suggests that APMs promote patient safety by eliminating human error in drug refills. The accidental mix-up of drugs with similar sounding names, for example, is drastically reduced when patients use APMs.

Yet again, these innovations showcase how busy consumers prefer health care that comes to them, rather than the other way around. Creating faster and more convenient avenues for customers to do business with health-care brands will ultimately boost engagement.

The future of digital health

As consumers increasingly depend on digital channels to meet their health-care needs, brands that are too slow to make the shift will ultimately be left behind. Connected consumers may be more tapped into their health than ever before, but brands won’t be able to capitalize on this heightened awareness unless they invest heavily in upping their digital game.

Now more than ever, the health experience isn’t just about what happens once consumers walk into a hospital or doctor’s office. Brands that demonstrate a commitment to their customers’ health at every stage of their wellness journey will lead the way in the digital age.

There’s much more on the horizon in the health-care industry — and it goes well beyond the patient experience. In this multi-part series, we will uncover how digital health is reshaping the health care industry for physicians and brands.

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