Technologies, New Thinking & Consumerism Fueling Tomorrow’s Healthcare Landscape

The healthcare industry has been evolving for years, led by innovations that help streamline an antiquated industry for better effectiveness and efficiencies. The administration’s healthcare reform bill is keeping the foot on the proverbial gas, fueling new thinking and technologies for better consumer access and engagement. Those business entities that can help cut costs, create awareness and prevention, and empower consumer engagement will find success among the changing landscape. It’s a prime time to be a healthcare marketer—full of new challenges and vast new opportunities.

Take, for instance, the rise of retail health clinics—both a cost savings and a convenience for consumers. A short time ago they didn’t even exist. Today they are practically mainstream and thriving. Urgent care centers are also booming, treating common injuries and illnesses and performing routine tests—and doing it all more quickly and conveniently than primary care doctors can handle. Despite the rise of digital, people still frequent drugstores and grocery stores. Smart companies recognize this and are going to where the consumers are.

According to recent data from Marketdata Enterprises, retail clinics will double their growth by 2016. They are seeing explosive patient activity with an estimated 10.5 million consumers using retail clinics by end of 2012, a jump from 1.48M in 2007. The reasons vary from primary care doctor shortages to insurance costs to economical convenience for consumers. Due to the reform bill, more than 30+ million people will enter the healthcare system in 2014 and continue to push these numbers higher.

Increasingly retailers, particularly those with pharmacies, are looking to find ways to help empower consumers with the tools and services that lead to better health knowledge and outcomes. My company, SoloHealth, recently announced that Sam’s Club and Walmart will be rolling out our SoloHealth Station consumer health and wellness kiosks to more than 2,500 stores nationwide. And we are just one of many new technologies and services being offered as big retailers try to provide convenience and value to consumers. With each new service comes an opportunity for marketers and the retailers to connect, engage and promote their products.

Marketdata Enterprises research director, John LaRosa, stated in a press release, “Healthcare is becoming more decentralized, being delivered where consumers shop and work — not just in the doctor’s office and not just 9-5, M-F, and at less cost.”

We are seeing great changes within the confines of the traditional “doctor’s office” from leveraging news technologies to “concierge” services to employers launching workplace clinics—all in an effort to cut costs and offer consumers more access and convenience.

Today, practically everyone is walking around with a computer (smartphone) in their pocket that has quite literally become as essential as their wallet. The rise of smartphones has given way to a flood of new mobile health applications and tools for both consumers and professionals. Mashable ran a story on a fascinating infographic from AlliedHealthWorld on the growth of mobile applications, noting stats like there are currently about 40,000 mobile health apps available for tablets and smartphones, as well as more than 500 health projects worldwide that have a mobile emphasis.

Major health insurers are adapting quickly to the changes afoot providing new services like free online tools, health coaching, and testing brand-new business strategies and ways of thinking. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sears and Darden Restaurants are planning a radical change in how they provide health benefits to their workers, giving employees a fixed sum of money and allowing them to choose their medical coverage and insurer from a digital marketplace.

At its core, your future health plan will be an information provider, said Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, in a Los Angeles Times article. “It will offer you resources, tools and education so that you can best take care of yourself and use your health benefits like a savvy consumer.”

Every day, we see that the future is about technology and empowering and engaging consumers for a healthier future and bottom line. It’s about rethinking old business strategies, access and information to adapt to today’s new world. It’s about understanding and embracing emerging technologies—think mobile, social, digital and beyond. It’s about understanding basic human needs and behaviors and making sure your brand aligns. It’s about facing these ever-evolving changes and learning to succeed.

How is the health of your healthcare business and marketing communications? Are you leveraging appropriate technologies? Are you approaching your strategies with new thinking? Are you empowering and engaging with your consumers to better their lives? It takes brave leadership to let go of antiquated business practices to embrace new ideas and executions for today’s landscape. But the alternative is certain failure.

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