Future health revolution is simpler than you think. Why Health consumers still blunder and how healthcare technology is changing that using data? (Part I)

My Thoughts on Health Customer behavior.

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2021-01-04 4 min read

In the shadow of Coronavirus restrictions and Pfizer vaccine news, I hate to remind you, but there lies a fundamental problem in health consumers’ behavior. The future of healthcare is not imaginable without solving it.

Chronic disease recipe

Many would guess the perfect recipe for a majority of our health problems. Same old boring ingredients: tobacco use, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and bad eating habits. The Four Musketeers (yes, including D’Artagnan) if you will, hereby shouting “One of all and all for one!” while having in mind all chronic diseases.

If you also assume that’s true — you are perfectly right: these four components really causes a vast majority of our health problems at all ages.

Why don't we behave?

By now it seems like everyone should be more or less familiar with the ways to tackle these four roadblocks on our way to healthier tomorrow — going through a ton of information about how their body works: from flashing ads to endless apps and blog articles rambling about WHAT you should do and HOW should you do it.

Have you ever thought about yourself behaving in favor of your health? Or against? Found some interesting data about health related decisions in Deloitte’s Critical Thinking and Future of Health Survey — Health consumers are overconfident and underestimate how often they make critical-thinking errors:

"Given the number of choices people face, it is hard to imagine anyone could go a day without making a critical-thinking error. Yet few consumers see it this way."

This Deloitte insights article information is the primary reason I am calling health consumers stupid — including myself — a guy, with a family history of lung cancer, qualified doctor, who knows in every particular molecular detail what happens while I smoke — and I still do. Many does. If that’s not stupid — I don’t know what is.

But have you ever considered why that is? Why do I still smoke knowing all the information there is about smoking damage to my body? Why do you eat a hamburger occasionally? Why do you forget to invest 20 minutes a day to prevent future stroke?

Think about it for a while. It’s not a simple question as many factors come into play. Let me know in the comments on which factor did you focus mostly, I will let you know my opinion below.

Where the Golden circle model and digitization comes into play.

One interesting (and in my opinion — very true) concept comes into mind when I’m thinking about the future of population health — Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” and the Golden circle model he talks about. How, what and why principles play a fundamental role in designing consumer behaviour. I firmly believe that the main reason health consumers still blunder is that they do not know WHY they should behave differently.

The ever emerging market of health and diet apps, at-home test kits, portable medical monitoring devices, telehealth and others is here to treat and prevent various diseases. There is one particular feature they share in common and can leverage — the data. All these technologies might change the future of health but only in a slightly different way than you might think.

Let’s talk behavioral science!

One particular thing I miss when reading insights on health consumers’ behaviour is “being part of the data” principle. I came up with this principle in my “Open Healthcare Data Model” presentation for “Create Lithuania” project. It basically means that showing person his own data gives more opportunities for self-reflection thus emphasizing health outcomes and future disease risk tailored for him personally.

This is completely opposite from something like “10 percent of the US population has diabetes and you should eat less sugar.” This is about people sensing that they themselves actually are the data. They look at the screen knowing it’s not about population — it’s about them in particular. They are part of the data.

Anything that creates engagement will work. Let that be constant reminders of various measurements, status/progress tracking, health scores, visual representation, community created competition and so on. It all supports the strong WHY statement by putting the consumer into the data.

Besides all the benefits that different digital healthcare solutions bring — this power of behavioral change is what unites all of them and gives them opportunity to fundamentally reshape the health of future population.

Seems very common, but it doesn’t make it less important.

It’s quite universal approach — many are doing that. In fact there are so many health tracking apps for specific tasks or challenges — it may seem very natural now, but it wasn’t always like that. Digital patient engagement is an emerging field in healthcare and every healthcare system participant should consider it one way or another.

My goal here was to point out that no matter what healthcare innovation actually does, what problem it solves, what kind of digital solution it is — as long as it has the opportunity to present health-related data to his customer and engage with him — they must utilize that — as it has the power to fundamentally shift population health behaviour towards the positive one. And in this, my friends, lies our healthier future.

aleknavicius.com | 2020

Kasparas Aleknavicius