The idea of self-service is one that consumers have embraced over time. Whether checking in for a flight at the airport via a kiosk, snapping a picture of a check on their cell phone to make a deposit or swiping a credit card at the gas pump, consumers have been conditioned to take more responsibility, control and ownership over daily activities.
Largely, consumers have embraced new technologies and have integrated digital experiences with their physical counterparts to more efficiently go about their lives. It was just a matter of time before they began seeking, and expecting to find, the same level of technology and convenience from the healthcare system. That time is now.
Today, consumers are taking more proactive steps to manage their own care. This ranges from using mobile health apps to bearing more financial responsibility to actively managing existing conditions and participating in wellness and prevention. In a world of self-service, we have officially entered the era of self-care. And as a result, the doors are open wide for mass adoption of telemedicine and virtual care solutions.
THREE DRIVERS OF THE SELF-CARE ERA
A perfect storm has fueled the evolution of the self-care era, where consumers are more engaged, more involved and more accountable for their health outcomes. Key trends in the economics of care, technological innovations and the consumerism of health have transferred responsibility, risk and opportunity from the healthcare system to the individual patient. Now, consumers are empowered and expected to take a greater role in managing their own health., and are rewarded, or penalized, based on their efforts.
The increasing popularity of high-deductible plans, widespread application of monetary incentives and penalties tied to wellness programming, and a continued shift of costs from employer to employee have all combined to created more financial pressure on individuals. Facing more economic responsibility for their health has caused many Americans to be a bit more careful when shopping for healthcare, and a bit more intentional about proactively managing their health and making healthier choices.
An explosion of health apps, wearable sensors and in-home monitoring devices has created unprecedented consumer demand for health-related technologies. At a time when consumers are interested in quantifying every aspect of their lives, it has been a natural progression for them to engage in health-related pursuits to measure, track and compare with others.
Retailers such as Walgreens have continued to extend a consumer-friendly version of care through on-site clinics and related initiatives. Meanwhile, tech giants such as Apple and Google have officially entered (and in some cases, exited) the healthcare space as well. The net result of household brands engaging in the delivery of health products and services is a transition of individuals from reactive patients to proactive consumers.
This trifecta has set the stage for telemedicine and virtual care. The demand is high for increased access, enhanced convenience and more effective support. Consumers want a different relationship with the healthcare system, one that provides them care when they need it and how they want it.
In this new era of self-care, the key to the consumer can literally be found in the palm of their hand.
According to TIME Magazine, 84 percent of people say they couldn’t go a single day without their mobile device. Meanwhile, 75 percent of Americans find it hard to go to the bathroom without staying connected. Increasingly, this addiction to mobile is paying dividends in healthcare. More than half (52%) of smartphone users gather health information on their phones. In 2012, there were more than 44 million downloads of health apps.
As a result of the palpable interest in, and massive potential of, mobile health and telemedicine, many payers, providers and employers are pushing for more widespread deployment of such solutions. But are we moving fast enough?
To effectively engage with today’s healthcare consumer, we need to ramp up the availability and adoption of virtual care. And we need to get it right in the process.
Consumers are buying into the prospect of virtual care. The road ahead is paved with promise, as well as pitfalls. Those organizations who deliver the experience consumers expect will be those who succeed.
The self-care era is not a passing fad. It is a brave new reality of connected care. Big Data, the Internet of Things, The Quantified Self, whatever your favorite hot topic, they all are driving toward deeper blending of our physical and digital lives.
Meanwhile, the harsh economic realities of a healthcare industry in crisis and the unrelenting proliferation of chronic disease, are among the trends fueling more rapid growth of innovations in telemedicine and mobile health.
We are quickly reaching a tipping point in the adoption of virtual care. Smart organizations will be prepared with strategic solutions that meet consumer expectations while delivering financial and clinical value to themselves and the healthcare system. The rest will be crushed beneath the weight of an unprecedented wave of change.