As we finish 2010, one of the surprising healthcare marketing headlines has been the rapid ascendancy of mobile as a leading digital channel. Indeed, digital health really looks to be turning into a mobile business, giving healthcare communicators and marketers the potential to facilitate conversations and mediate connections throughout the health journey. Mobile is becoming a functional intermediary between brands, patients and physicians: delivering information, apps, tools and support geared to answering questions, providing comfort and promoting healthy and compliant behaviors and practices.
This shift in thinking is key to the emergence of a new health ecosystem, where information and support from multiple digital sources automatically follow patients throughout their health journey, allowing us to be responsive to the “in-the-moment” needs of patients, their loved ones and caregivers. Mobility doesn't just mean portable, it means experiences that are liquid and adaptive—sensing and delivering what you need—and when; often served up through multiple devices, in multiple formats, throughout the course of a day. Information and support is transmutable and will live in the “cloud” accessed on-demand by patients and professionals.
This ecosystem points us to the rise of “ambient healthcare”—that is, the organized implementation of the myriad digital, mobile and social tools, feeds, and content available in one's own environment. We've grown accustomed to the idea that our immediate environment can harm our health. But, thanks to technology, we now have the real prospect of taking control and engineering an environment that actually fosters health.
One way that ambient information changes behavior is simply by presenting individuals with key information at key moments. One example is for asthma sufferers; an air quality sensor alerts them to critical pollution levels and reminds them to take the recommended dose of medication. Another way is when individuals share health information with a select group of contacts through social media. Individuals who see others' updates and, in turn, share their own updates, create the sort of peer effect that makes face-to-face groups such as Weight Watchers so effective.
With smart use of technology and psychology, the digital rhythm of everyday life has the potential to become a major factor in helping people manage their health better at all levels, from simple fitness all the way to chronic disease management.
Larry Mickelberg is chief digital officer, Euro RSCG Life Worldwide