In the past we used to look to our doctors to track our vitals and symptoms and make decisions related to our health. In recent decades, that has been changing. Patients are increasingly taking time to become informed about their care and often come to their doctors with answers about what they require from their healthcare and detailed questions about their treatment. A majority like being in control of their health, feel confident that they can take responsibility for their wellbeing and feel they know how to find the resources for their health questions and concerns.
Additionally, more and more people – approximately 69% – are taking it upon themselves to track their weight, diet, exercise, or symptoms, for themselves or for a loved one. Of those, one fifth use some form of technology to monitor their health. And according to a recent report, those who are already committed to a healthier lifestyle are using wearable wellness devices – such as Fitbits – to track their progress. These informed, motivated patients are using data from their wellness tracking devices, applications and analytics dashboards, such as Data Sense, TicTrac, Exist.io and Jawbone’s Up3 band, to get a better sense of their personal health from a holistic perspective and ascertain specific actions they need to take to improve their wellness.
What about those who are not so motivated? Research has shown that a number of people who buy wearable devices stop using them shortly after buying them and that only 10% wear them on a daily basis. For those who are not motivated to take wellness into their own hands, there are increasingly more solutions available. For example, in New York City, a network of urgent care medical centers and an app developer are giving away wellness apps to those at risk for developing diabetes in an effort to support them on their path to a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, Wellcoin incentivizes healthy activities, such as drinking water and exercising, by offering wellness products, such as Fitbits, yoga mats and healthy nutrition, as rewards.
As healthcare communicators, we need to challenge ourselves to think about how we can use creative incentives and leverage the proliferation of wellness devices, apps and dashboards to reach target populations in order to help them improve their wellbeing or manage their condition. We also need to adjust our approaches and messaging in order to appeal to patients who are confident, educated, empowered, curious and in control of their health. We need to help them make sense of increasing amounts of health information and data in a way that helps them decide what actions they need to take. Lastly, we need to think about the evolving role of healthcare professionals and help foster a meaningful dialogue between patients and their doctors while still keeping the patient in control.