Pinching and Zooming into the Healthcare of Tomorrow

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Consumers are embracing multi-screen content consumption when it comes to healthcare, are you pinching and zooming into the healthcare of tomorrow?

An apple a day used to keep the doctor away, but technologies like Apple’s iPads and other mobile devices could be bringing physicians and patients closer together. Digital health activities are becoming increasingly multi-screen, thanks to the rise of mobile technologies (Apple-created or otherwise), according to a new study from Manhattan Research.

The market research and advisory firm recently released its Cybercitizen Health Study 2012, which uncovered findings regarding the popularity of mobile technologies for health use among consumers. Although online health activities are still primarily desktop-based, the adoption of mobile and health tablet activity is increasing.

According to the study, the number of adults in the US (ages 18+) using mobile phones for health information grew from 61 million to 75 million this year, while tablet adoption nearly doubled from 15 million to 29 million. Tablet health activities remain more popular with younger consumers, but older consumers are showing a great deal of promise. The study indicates that nearly half of online consumers 55 and older who use or own a tablet are using them for health information or tools.

Perhaps even more telling than the popularity of one particular device, are the numbers that indicate interest and interaction from users who own all three: tablets, smart phones, and desktop/laptops. Among the 15 percent of online consumers surveyed who own three devices and use at least one for a health activity, 60 percent are using all three screens to access health information.

“Growing ownership of connected devices and the access to digital health tools and information they provide is helping to drive the broader shift from intermittent to continuous care,” said Monique Levy, vice president of research at Manhattan Research.”This trend shows vast potential for changing key dynamics of healthcare delivery, including patient engagement, provider involvement, and how preventive care is incentivized.”

The Powerful Pinch

Pinching and Zooming into the Healthcare of TomorrowMulti-screen use in healthcare is still somewhat of an untapped well, but taking a closer look at how it’s gained popularity in other areas could shed light on the potential it holds for healthcare. According to an infographic encapsulating Google’s most recent multi-use study, 90 percent of consumers who are using multiple screens are doing so sequentially. Online search leads the pack of cross-device activity at 81 percent; online shopping falls into second at 67 percent, and managing finances is third at 47 percent.

Are consumers really ready to manage their health in the same fashion? According to Michelle Tucker, vice president and creative director at DraftFBC’s consumer health division, the answer is an emphatic “yes”. In a recent interview with Pixels and Pills, at the September eDTC Revolutions Conference in Washington, DC, Tucker explained how “pinching and zooming” is becoming the predominant way of consuming content, thus it’s smart that health entities take advantage of  its appeal.

Multi-screen technology is already changing the landscape of patient education and engagement and how communication companies like DraftFBC are developing applications to help its clients with both.

“Knowledge is power,” said Tucker. “When your patients can pinch and zoom and be immersed in the experience, that makes patients feel empowered and like they are taking control of their condition, which helps them move through the treatment journey in a way they have never been able to before.”

Technologies are going beyond the treatment journey, transforming the very nature of the patient-physician relationship as well as the conversations regarding care, according to Tucker. “It’s a game changer for sure,” she added.

Behind the Screens

Naturally, access to mobile devices and apps are providing physicians with more tools to connect with patients and each other, but how to truly harness the potential of mobile technology and multi-screen use in healthcare remains largely unrealized. Thus, it’s changing the game, but not many have learned exactly what the rules are or how to play just yet.

Although multi-screen use has created greater opportunities to connect, it has also created more demand, especially in terms of providing effective patient outreach, marketing, or CRM tools. Is the content you are providing equally recognizable yet optimized to the strengths of each device? Are there shortcuts or social media connections available to allow users to share content simply? Are there security provisions in place to protect privacy? Those are just a few examples of what needs to be considered when taking on the multi-screen approach.

Those considerations aside, the benefits of embracing mobile technologies are starting to far outweigh the risks. Tucker explained: “The industry over all is starting to take on a mobile-first mentality. Our pharma clients are embracing it. Even those in medical regulatory and legal are starting to sit up and take notice.”

However, it’s crucial to realize that embracing these new mobile technologies is just a piece, not the whole picture for healthcare, said Tucker. Adherence won’t come from just the apps themselves. “It’s truly about that 360 degrees of communication with the patient, and making sure you are reaching them in every way, shape, and form.”

Still, mobile technologies and multi-screen use seems like it’s here to stay, proving that people are ready and willing to see things differently when it comes to their health. That’s no longer a question. Are healthcare providers ready to help them see it? That’s the real question.

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