Why healthcare must 'step up' and engage consumers

Starting point: Call people consumers, not patients
By Tom Sullivan
12:37 PM

When Harry Reynolds asks audiences how many of them use smartphones every day for almost all parts of their lives, plenty of hands fly up. But when he asks how many tap their phone or another device for healthcare he sees between 2 and 10 percent of those fingers in the air.

“And most of the audiences that I speak to are the learned in healthcare,” said Reynolds, who is IBM’s director of health industry transformation. “So picture them using their smartphone about 150 times a day and not using it for health, which is one of the most relevant things in their day.” 

Whereas almost every other major industry has embraced mobile technologies to more effectively engage customers healthcare has thus far been behind that mobile curve.

On Monday Dec. 8 during a session at the mHealth Summit 2014 Reynolds will discuss how he sees that changing, thanks in large part to the raft of apps, devices and technologies coming to market.

Healthcare until now has required the person to come to it — a stark contrast to the example Reynolds cited of Black Friday. Customers can physically go to stores or malls, they can instead opt to surf online for Cyber Monday deals, and they can use apps to pinpoint exactly where the best price for what they want resides.

“None of that exists for healthcare,” Reynolds said. “It’s time to use the mobile capabilities of the world to change overall health.”

[See also: Strategies to maximize patient engagement and retention.]

Which is not to suggest that changing an entire industry to pro-actively reach out to patients will be as easy as downloading an app, but the technologies for doing so already exist.

So what will it take? The philosophical shift toward patient-centric care services, for starters, as well as a healthcare model that not only pays for the use of mobile technologies but also accepts it as the right way to communicate with people via tools they use everyday.

“It’s not that we don’t know how to do it. It’s not that we don’t know how to deal with individuals,” Reynolds said. “It’s just time for the industry to really step up and, rather than calling us patients or members, start calling us people, consumers, parents, children, caregivers, employees who, oh by the way, are also patients.”

[See also: 5 ways Cleveland Clinic improved its patient engagement strategies.]

The mHealth Summit 2014 runs from Dec. 7-11 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C. Register here.

Mobile, Telehealth
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