“The US healthcare system is in the midst of a large-scale transformation. With mandates from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) and other pressures, the industry is facing demographic, regulatory and financial challenges. It is under pressure to reduce costs, find better ways to keep patients healthy, and treat illnesses more efficiently.”
That statement opens a just published report from eMarketer entitled “Health: More Than Just Wearables; What Marketers Need to Know About Digitally Enabled Care.”
It’s an eye-opener — or should be, for many, regardless of whether they are the purveyors of new technologies or consumers of them.
The report begins with a hat tip to the digital world of healthcare. eMarketer’s surveys have shown that already people are going digital to do a host of things, from searching for healthier recipes (61.8 percent), to looking for alternative treatments or home remedies (56.6 percent), to accessing diet and exercise websites (51 percent) and trying to find a doctor (48.4 percent).
In a word, the new world of healthcare is digital — and consumers already know this.
But, how much do marketers know?
There are challenges ahead, according to the eMarketer report. Not insurmountable ones, of course, but definitely insistent ones.
It’s one thing to manufacture a wearable that measures blood pressure, for instance. But there will be a bevy of hoops to jump through as companies navigate the new environment of connected healthcare.
Consider, for starters, the need to understand the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates. Success, say industry experts, will also require marketers to be HIPAA-compliant.
“(Marketers) have to understand PHI guidelines to be successful,” says Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile.
The eMarketer report notes that Nicholson said his firm, which develops HIPAA compliant mobile messaging solutions for consumer health and wellness companies, built its business around the idea of private digital communications. For example, its proprietary secure mail solution, AppMail, is HIPAA-compliant and enables the company to send personal health information directly to a consumer from a health plan, insurer, pharmacy or pharma company, and other clients.
While “consumers are turning to their personal devices and a host of digital resources for health information … and taking more active roles in their own care,” issues of privacy and security also loom large, a fact marketers need to acknowledge as they seek to serve this growing marketplace.
“As systems become larger, more interconnected and cloud-based, they are potentially at higher risk for data theft,” notes the eMarketer report. “In November 2014, research firm IDC predicted that by 2020, 42 percent of all digital healthcare data would be unprotected. A PwC study found that privacy and security was the top barrier to using mobile health technology, cited by 45 percent of U.S. physicians.”
That means marketers will have to take precautions to ensure that not only do their products work as advertised, but that they come with all the security enhancements that give consumers and their physicians peace of mind.