How the Consumer is Adopting and Adapting to Digital Health

We live in an increasingly quantifiable world, a world where we can now measure and calculate everything from the nutritional content of last night’s snack, to the amount of cholesterol moving through our bloodstream. The widespread availability and navigational ease of today’s digital tech now allows us to monitor and assess nearly every conceivable contributing factor to our health. These advances enable an ongoing digital dialogue: a conversation with healthcare experts and providers alike regarding exactly how best to keep ourselves well. And just as modern tech now permits the accurate gauging of our health status, we can also quantifiably confirm that this informational exchange in healthcare is being facilitated evermore by the integration of wearables, mobile tracking, online information, and other digital health solutions into our everyday routines.

Health-conscious consumers are widely and effectively engaging in the field of digital healthcare, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Rock Health. The survey used a questionnaire distributed to over 4,000 adults, who were selected to reflect nationwide diversity in age, sex, education level, and health status, in order to compile a representation of where digital health stands among the contemporary US healthcare landscape. Results were promising, indicating a steady, multi-demographic rise in consumer adoption, use and positive opinion of today’s most prominent digital health options.

While a substantial increase in total adoption was apparent across all categories of digital health tech included on the survey, telemedicine showed the largest upswing in consumer use, with a 283% surge in overall adoption (from 7% to 22%) compared to a similar survey conducted in 2015. The most popular method of telemedicine engagement was by phone, although doctor-patient communications over email, SMS, text, and video were also prevalent. The prominence of wearables increased substantially as well, doubling from 12% in 2015 to 24% of responders now indicating the adoption of Fitbits, Apple Watches, and similar tech. Mobile tracking apps saw a net rise of 5% from last year, up to 22%, and the use of online reviews and information, while boasting the highest adoption rates of 51% and 72% respectively, showed only a slight year-over-year adoption growth of 1% each.

Consumers’ health status, as well as the amount of responsibility they feel for maintaining their own health, also contributed largely toward whether or not digital tech was considered for use. Those who identified as having “excellent health” were 40% more likely to own a wearable, and 46% more likely to have used telemedicine approaches than individuals who listed their current health status as “poor.”

However, despite digital health’s common perception as a staple of the healthy, survey results indicated that people who described themselves as unhealthy, but also considered themselves accountable for personal health care were the most likely to adopt digital health, while healthy individuals who didn’t advocate personal responsibility were the least likely. This suggests that a positive, proactive approach to healthcare may be a greater sign of overall likelihood to adopt and utilize digital health methods than one’s current state of health.

Even in an internet age, consumers still overwhelmingly value privacy; maintaining control over who views personal health information remains a major requirement for over 90% of digital consumers, although most were also willing to share their health data if doing so provides a positive effect. 77% of consumers indicated a willingness to share health data if it meant their doctors would be better equipped to offer care, and 60% felt comfortable with contributing personal data to medical studies.

As providers of an invaluable medical service, pharma companies should look to digital health trends and attitudes when developing a comprehensive approach to marketing and customer service. Now more than ever, the healthcare conversation is happening over digital space. Pharma brands who offer an updated avenue for consumers to exchange meaningful feedback while also prioritizing patient privacy are sure to gain an edge over companies who continue to disregard and stifle customer input through one-sided information and product rollout.


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About Dan Gandor

Dan Gandor is a pharma marketer, web designer, pilot, father, husband, digital health guru, and general technologist. Postings and opinions are my own, and do not indicate endorsement.

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