Digital Experiences Designed to Power Healthier Lives

  • Heather Gately
  • October 22, 2015

Every weekday, I sit in front of my computer for 10 hours a day. But, every 45 minutes or so, a little navy blue rubber bracelet on my left wrist discreetly vibrates as a reminder to get up—take a walk, breathe non-canned air, get blood flow into muscles.

It tracks steps, sleep, and integrates with a third-party health-focused digital experience that helps track diet, and allows insight into how many more steps are needed to take to reach personal health goals. Some days, goals are met or exceeded and I high five myself. Other days, it’s just a little vibrating companion that reminds me to get up and move. Either way, it’s designed to help people drive their own better health outcomes.

Wearables have been around for more than a few years. However, the potential to integrate data from these devices into larger digital healthcare experiences to drive better behaviors, inform treatments, and manage adherence, is in its infancy. Adoption and management of electronic health records (EHR) already tops the list of many health systems, as does the rise of accountable care programs—where business outcomes are more closely tied to patient health outcomes. What could be accomplished if these elements converge?

Do the Startups Have It Down?

Recently, the CDC recognized three digital health programs and startups in the healthcare field focused on using digital experiences to drive behavioral changes and provide guided self-service to prevent or manage chronic diseases, ranging from obesity and diabetes and nutrition and weight loss.

There will surely be more of these to come as technology and data usage evolves, and major U.S. health systems design their own secure integrated solutions. In fact, Practice Fusion, a prominent cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) company in the U.S., in a poll of its community of doctors reports that over 60% would recommend wearable health trackers and health apps to their patients for daily use.

It seems it’s only a matter of time.

Incorporating contextual content or insights personalized around these various data streams could give the patient a much more powerful treatment experience in connecting behaviors with healthier outcomes and supporting long-term adherence.

First, start with the individual.

Integrated care models—coordinating doctors, services, and systems around an individual—use the patient perspective as the focal point of healthcare delivery. These care models rely upon the systematic coordination of general and behavioral healthcare to help guide and support patients toward better outcomes. Digital health experiences should model this same philosophy, and begin around the individual user—and then integrate system-wide.

As technology and advanced CMS (content management systems) allow websites to become more personalized based on an individual user’s behavior (while still maintaining privacy), content strategy and UX design must match it in robustness. Understanding current user behavior, identifying goal metrics and mapping digital behavioral data to KPIs is the first step to targeting your message.

Second, make it easy for doctors.

Even when patients are willing to engage in EHR (electronic health record) tools, many physicians don’t have the time to add email correspondence or texting (activities that don’t have an insurance billing code) to their already jam-packed day—so designing a balance for both patients and doctors is key. Personalized digital content can play a significant role here to deliver value and ongoing treatment or guidance without burdening physicians with duplicated interactions.

For example, tying relevant patient data (a new mother, let’s say) to content on feedings and umbilical cord care in the early days of a newborn’s life can greatly reduce the number of phone calls to pediatricians from nervous new parents asking the 10 most common questions including, “How do I know if he’s eating enough?”

Third, iterate, iterate, iterate.

This is a marathon not a sprint. As personal technology advances and health systems continue to navigate HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which was put in place primarily to protect patients’ privacy, and embrace integrated and authenticated models, personalized digital experiences will continue to evolve to help build trust between doctor and patient as well as drive treatment adherence. But, it won’t happen overnight. Building a flexible and responsive website on a digital platform that allows you to optimize as you go is key. Deliver value, measure, react, and then optimize to deliver more value.

So, in conclusion…whoops! My bracelet just reminded me to move—off to find some fresh air.

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