Driving Healthy Consumer Choices – Tech & Healthcare Industry Roles

We usually know which of our choices are the healthier ones but how often are those the ones we select?

Be honest now!

Of course we want to be healthy but often our decisions belie that objective.  Somehow wellness is less motivating than the options we’re choosing.

Consumers’ failure to choose the healthy path is frustrating to those who are developing, producing and offering connected health devices and services that will contribute to better health — if we use them, of course.

Engaging consumers in their health was the topic on day 2 of the Connected Health Summit, providing a good complement to the technology discussion from day 1. We’ve had some time now to think about what we heard at the Summit, do some research on the technologies and look at how it all fits together.

We’re encouraged that the right questions are being asked — and good answers being found.

Consumer Perspectives on Health

It was refreshing to hear, particularly at a technology conference, speakers discuss understanding better what consumers want and how their health related decisions are made rather than just how to get them to purchase the devices developers and marketers decide to make.

It’s clearly a concern to many in digital health that consumers aren’t making greater use of the devices and services already available.

Notably, though, all the blame was not pointed at consumers, as failures of our current healthcare system to properly leverage available opportunities caught much of the blame. There was enough to go around, though.

These are, in my mind, three key questions when it comes to determining the success of connected health technology as a concept, so it was refreshing to hear so much discussion on these and similar topics.

  • With such widespread access to high speed internet, why have only a quarter of US households with broadband used online care communications? What does it take to connect care with the home?
  • Does the structure of our healthcare system fail to provide an incentive to providers to utilize technology to provide care for patients outside the office setting?
  • Consumers have been bombarded with information on healthy choices and lifestyle decisions but many choose to ignore that information at least some of the time. What must change in order to make the healthy choice the option of choice for consumers?

Sure, there are other questions that have to be answered, especially for specific segments of connected health, but these are worth discussing further because they reflect overriding barriers to the broad acceptance of an entire category of technology.

Not only are we looking to connected health to reinvent a healthcare industry in need of an overhaul but, more directly on target here at Senior Care Corner®, this technology is a necessary aspect of successful aging in place for a rapidly growing senior population in the US.

Bringing Healthcare Into the Home

There is clearly a gap to be bridged to bring healthcare into more homes. Part of it is, admittedly, that connected health is still very much in its infancy. Still, there is not much participation yet, even where there is availability today. The “why” of it has a number of answers but maybe two basic pieces.

On the healthcare side, we — especially our senior loved ones — tend to put a lot of our trust in our healthcare providers and look to them for direction. If our providers don’t express confidence in connected health technology by using it in our care and recommending we do so as well, many of us are likely to shy away ourselves.

The technology side is not unlike the care side in that we often look to trusted, or at least familiar, names for our lead. There has been some good connected health technology out there, especially for aging in place seniors, for a few years but much of it has been from entrepreneurial companies rather than the big names from whom we get a lot of our tech.

As discussed at the Connected Health Summit and elsewhere of late, the announced efforts by Apple, Samsung and Google are expected to make a real difference in the reach of connected health. These are the names from whom we get much of our mobile technology and associate with online activity, so it makes sense.

An example of this is Independa, one of the companies that has offered connected health technology for seniors. Their reach should be greatly extended now that they have a system that will work with LG smart TVs. We saw a demo of their system on the TV at the Connected Health Summit and are sure you will be hearing a lot more from them when they roll it out soon.

Healthcare Providers and Connected Health

We are limited in what we can accomplish with connected health as individuals unless we are connecting with our healthcare providers, especially our doctors, and they are participating as well. That makes sense because they are our experts, especially for older generations who haven’t grown up being able to research health topics online and connect on social media with others who share their health conditions.

Much is said by those who directly pay for much of our care, insurance companies and governments (think Medicare and Medicaid), that we should be taking steps to make that care more affordable, including utilizing technology in care. Connected health technology will be a big part of that, as it will allow doctors and other practitioners to provide care to more people in an environment where patients are most comfortable, their own homes.

So why don’t most reimbursement structures reflect that?

Doctors are still largely compensated based on the number of patients they treat in their offices, which doesn’t give them a real incentive to be innovative and utilize connected health systems and devices. If we want to encourage them to change the way they practice, the industry has to align the financial side of care to reward those who change.

No, it’s not simple when we’re talking about a huge system and billions of dollars. We need the hard moves to be made, though.

Making Healthy Choices

Much discussion at the Connected Health Summit, as well as elsewhere, has centered on how to get consumers to start making healthier choices. Much education has been done but it still seems easier, or at least more prevalent, to bypass what we know is best for us in favor of something else.

How do we make “healthy” more attractive than the alternatives being selected today? That’s a multi-trillion dollar question, given all the impacts of adopting healthier lifestyles.

Those marketing connected health technology realize it’s not a case of “if we build it they will come” and are struggling over how to get consumers to go beyond saying they want to be healthy to actually acting on the words.

Tying It All Together

We feel the key for making connected health technology work for us lies in adopting the right answer to all three questions. We need to combine:

  1. the right technologies from names with which we are familiar, at least until we are comfortable making connected health technologies part of our lives;
  2. a healthcare system that at least gets out of its own way, making it possible for healthcare providers to utilize technology in our care as part of their practices; and,
  3. making the healthier choice part of our everyday life because the results and technology appeal to us and we’re partnering with our healthcare providers on the journey.

When we put it that way, it doesn’t seem such a mountain to climb. As we hear and see more about the technologies that are coming and the attitude with which both the tech and healthcare industries appear to be approaching the issues, our optimism grows.

Stay tuned!