Technology Driving the Industry & Today’s Empowered Consumer

The seventh annual Healthcare IT Week kicks-off next week, September 10-14, and it got me thinking about technology and our healthcare industry. As we know, technology has always been the driving force behind America’s innovative and economic industries. That’s certainly true with healthcare. But like a perfect storm, health care is benefiting from the rise of transformative digital, social and mobile technologies that are creating a new and empowered consumer.

Last summer, the Health & Human Services (HHS) Department held a health IT forum and Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said in her opening statement that the program “demonstrates HHS’s commitment to promoting innovative uses of data to advance health and healthcare in America… helping consumers take control of their own health by putting the right information at their fingertips.”

“Helping consumers take control of their own health…” Secretary Sibelius gets it.

Healthcare is personal. Consumers want to become knowledgeable and understand about their health and wellness. Technologies are helping to provide access and empower them. Across America, there is a concerted effort to modernize health information systems to improve our country’s healthcare—physically and financially. From electronic health records to self-service kiosks to social and mobile media, technologies are empowering consumers and healthcare professionals to connect and enable safer, healthier and smarter healthcare decisions.

It’s no real secret why. As the old adage notes: necessity is the mother of all invention.

Despite spending more per capita than our peer countries, we rank the lowest in terms of life expectancy and chronic health issues, according to the Conference Board of Canada. More than 65 million Americans have hypertension; 67 million have diabetes; and 122 million are obese. All chronic and treatable if only those consumers have access to become aware and empowered to act.

Consider the following stats (source: Forbes Healthcare Summit 2012):

• Healthcare spending is over 17% of the current US GDP — $2.6 trillion dollars.
• 25% of all venture capital funding goes to healthcare.
• The opportunity and demand for innovation and healthcare is at an all-time high.
• Almost 60% of consumers use media and information services as their primary online healthcare resources.
• The use of retail health clinics has almost doubled in the past three years.

Never before have marketers had such an engaged and connected (albeit sick) audience to target. There are more technologies and resources to understand and engage with consumers than ever before—think digital, mobile, social and beyond. Practically every consumer walks around with a computer (smartphone) in their pocket and stays always connected via internet, social media networks, text and email. And, despite technologies, they are still frequenting retail locations like drugstores and grocery markets.

We have a treasure trove of data at our fingertips that will allow you to understand and personalize communications, tools and products for consumers. There are powerful software platforms available to help us monitor, measure and maximize across all our consumer touchpoints, giving us a comprehensive view of our consumer never before offered.

Have you examined your consumer base lately? And I mean really dig in and examine them through today’s available technologies? How well do you know your consumer? Do you effectively engage and empower them across all their touchpoints—retail, social, mobile, email, as well as traditional media? Are they responding? Do you even know?

It’s an incredibly advantageous time for health and wellness marketers particularly because of today’s technologies and the effect they are having on consumers and the entire industry. But they won’t happen on their own. It takes a conscious and strategic approach.

Next week, politicians, innovators and individuals will gather in D.C. during Healthcare IT Week to continue to put the spotlight on healthcare technology solutions. Participants will have the opportunity to experience the latest innovations and interact with individuals who use health IT every day. And around the nation cities and organizations will participate locally and digitally to celebrate the week. Perhaps it’s time for healthcare marketers to pause and examine healthcare IT within their own departments and across their consumer base. I challenge you to do a full audit next week and learn to embrace today’s technologies and empower your consumers.

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