Smartphone Innovation Is About Seniors and mHealth
The recent Samsung and Apple announcements about health technology for consumers and developers tell us just how exciting the future is for mobile health solutions. These innovations are being pushed by an active yet aging population requiring personal control and centralization of health, wellness and fitness data, which has been siloed to date in medical databases and individual fitness apps. Apple is partnering with both Nike and the Mayo Clinic to ease integration with the new iOS 8 HealthKit platform and Health app.
These innovations meet the needs of the fitness enthusiast as well as the aging chronic disease sufferer who wants to track, monitor and improve their health through the use of mobile technology. This peek into the future offers an exciting opportunity for pharmaceutical marketers to embrace, and to develop, digital health initiatives and mobile apps for older consumers.
America is getting older. More than 40 million Americans are 65 or older. Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are 44% of the US population, and the first of them turned 65 in 2011—despite being dubbed Generation Ageless. In fact, every day over 8,000 Baby Boomers turn 65.
To date, most mobile marketing strategies have excluded older Americans as being too small a population to target or not interested in technology. Pharmaceutical marketers particularly have been reluctant to develop mobile initiatives for older people. But as we know, that group is a large and growing population—with time, spending more, and engaged with new technologies in ways we're not giving them credit for.
Sachs Insights recently spoke with a group of 65-80-year-olds who are fully engaged with their smartphones, and they revealed a Baby Boomer-like attitude toward early adoption and problem solving. In robust group interviews, Tammy Sachs and her team heard from older consumers who have gone mobile as part of lifelong tech innovation or due to the demands of their professions or simply to stay relevant.
These older smartphone enthusiasts cite the same functions (texting, email, shopping, banking, maps, the camera) and associated emotions (happy, connected, smart) as younger techies when they talk about their attachment to their phones and apps. They also manage their health and wellness on their smartphone and say their mobile device keeps them healthier.
AND WELLNESS 2014
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As with other aspects of their life, 50+ Baby Boomers bring their sense of entitlement to their health. They expect the best care, the most innovative and me-centric solutions, and high expectations of service from all resources and partners—and they are empowered in all this by the capabilities of their mobile devices.
This group of senior tech enthusiasts not only count steps and calories with fitness and diet apps, but they manage their medical conditions, track serious symptoms and conditions, and send data to their physicians directly from the phone. They take full advantage of apps and iPhone attachments that measure heart rate, oxygen levels, blood sugar, sleep quality, and other physical functions, as well as storing their electronic health record (EHR) for access by healthcare providers when they travel.
Aging Americans do face some challenges with vision, dexterity and how they're used to learning from lengthy written materials, but solutions like large screens and intuitive interfaces, and especially voice recognition technology like Siri seem to be innovations tailor-made for this older generation.
With the newly enhanced consumer-health-centric smartphone platforms from Apple and others, healthcare and pharmaceutical marketers can no longer avoid supporting older consumers in the mobile channel. There's a tremendous opportunity at hand for pharmaceutical brands to increase relevancy with aging tech-savvy consumers, and increase their role in supporting healthier outcomes across generations.
mHealth isn't a fleeting consumer fad about counting calories or the personally quantified self—it's the future for all people engaged in their own health. Pharmaceutical and healthcare marketers must get on board the powered-by-seniors bandwagon of mobile health innovation.
Katie Rogin is managing director, strategic planning at Havas Tonic, the consumer health & wellness practice within Havas Worldwide New York.