An app a day keeps the doctor away

An app a day keeps the doctor away

Digital technology is invading our daily health and wellness routine. Doctors are already becoming the second opinion.

People are looking more and more to the technology they use for information and personal guidance to be increasingly health-informed and health-engaged. They proactively participate in the treatment of their own conditions and those of loved ones. Self-help has evolved to self-health, where people seek to improve their health with proliferating tools and technology and this is dramatically changing the doctor-patient relationship paradigm.

As consumers increasingly turn to self-service technologies and channels, the entire industry (medical, pharma but also food and beverage) has a tremendous opportunity to reach, engage and interact with these today’s empowered consumer. Thousands of health and wellness “apps” support users already in this domain:

  • Calculate calories during exercisevitalsigns
  • Quantify pain over time
  • Track vital signs and diet to help manage diabetes
  • Manipulate surroundings during a scan to make a patient feel more comfortable (i.e.: Ambient Experience MRI by Philips)

If a brand or a company has a unique health benefit or promise, apps are the way to reach consumers. On the one hand such apps could address social networking needs, as most of us seem to be willing to share findings, opinions and questions in the health and wellness domain. On the other hand, there is a differentiation of apps that are more tailored to specific issues and audiences. E.g. Voxmed allows physician to share opinions, seek advice and connect with colleagues while PleaseCycle encourages healthy cycling through client-branded online portals where employees can plan routes, chat with other cyclists and log mileage.

To be successful, digital health and wellness related interactions need to be engaging and personal. Consumers want to be empowered with information and feel free to go to their trusted resources for support, guidance and interaction. A second important driver is human interaction.

Elderly people are a very promising target group for apps and digital brand interaction in the health and wellness domain. Not only are these interactions effective, a recent report showed that internet use lead to a 30 percent decrease in depressive symptoms among older adults, the amount of the connected elderly a growing rapidly as well. The 74+ age group is the fastest growing within social networks (Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project).

Now, where is the opportunity for brands?

  • The best thing a brand can do is to mine the specific need of thir customers for information, tools and social interactions
  • Create custom content, tools and meaningful experiences that underscore specific health and wellness benefits for people and meet them during their care cycle.

Of course there are big challenges such as the one on the responsibility for credible health information on the web. But on the flip side there is a great opportunity: the chance for brand to play a new role in managing the expectations of an aging population in front of the increasing cost of the health system and the difficult current economic conditions.