Like most of you, I spent last evening at a party watching the Super Bowl. No real surprise there as attending a Super Bowl party is a national pastime, regardless if you are a sports fan or not. I am an avid sports fan and paid close attention to the game. But I also keep an eye on what is becoming another national pastime: Our obsession with our smartphones and technology. Almost everyone was glued to his/her smartphone at some time during the game whether following Twitter, posting on Facebook, or interacting with Coke’s polar bears online. And yet with phones in hand, and heads down in a digital connection, everyone still maintained the real-world social experience gathered around the giant flat screen TV.
And this got me thinking about consumer behavior and technology and how they collide with both our real world and digital world. I believe that we will always gather together to watch live TV events like the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, and The Grammys. Despite the ability to watch programming almost anywhere on almost any device, there is a strong connection to want to watch live events together. But increasingly we are merging this real-world experience with our digital world. And so these two worlds collide and yet co-mingle well.
I see this real-world-meets-digital-world scenario happening successfully in today’s healthcare landscape. (Yes, admit it, you were wondering when I’d get around to healthcare.)
Innovative technologies are allowing for healthcare to expand and reach across many touch points, helping to engage consumers and open the lines of communication in what has traditionally been a closed-access system. Yes, technology has allowed us to digitally learn and interact with our healthcare more than ever before. But consumers are still very much experiencing healthcare in the real world: we physically go to the doctor’s office; we shop in actual drugstores and grocery stores; we pick up prescriptions in brick-n-mortar pharmacies. So, as healthcare professionals, learning how to merge the real world with the digital world will benefit not only your business but consumers, too.
Think about a few examples: Insurance companies still have live representatives but now create personalized web portals for consumers to have more access and information; doctors and patients still speak live in an office but are increasingly turning to social media to extend the patient-doctor access; healthcare kiosks in retail locations physically interact with consumers but also extend connections across digital platforms; and many useful mobile applications provide consumers with valuable healthcare information and interaction on the go.
I’m a big proponent of technology advancing our healthcare system. In fact, I believe technology will be the driving force that propels us to a healthier and more efficient American healthcare system. But right alongside technology is today’s empowered consumer that is still – and most likely will always be—actively participating with his/her healthcare in the real world. Combing these two worlds will only increase today’s “empowered consumer” and help drive us forward.
Since the early days of digital, consumers have leveraged technology to access healthcare information. In fact, a 2011 Pew study shows that 80% of consumers go online for health-related information making it the third most popular online pursuit. A National Research Corporation recent study showed 1 in 5 use social media for healthcare information, with 94% citing Facebook as their primary platform. Today technologies and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are incredible platforms for consumers to access, interact and empower them in their healthcare knowledge.
Consider the power of Twitter. Many consumers and professionals are turning to Twitter to stay ahead of medical updates, industry news, information and trends. For example, more than 1,300 influential doctors are registered with TwitterDoctors. And many are opening their personal Facebook pages to embrace patients.
Mobile healthcare and wellness applications are set to more than double this year, providing consumers with a wealth of valuable, interactive healthcare content. And every day a new technology arises.
Smart healthcare and wellness professionals know they should embrace today’s technologies to help empower today’s engaged consumer. But those who know how to blend a consumer’s real world and digital world will be the ones who really succeed. Don’t believe me? Think about your Super Bowl experience. I bet there were at least a few folks blending their real and digital worlds.