Technology has played a significant role in my professional, academic and personal life. When I think about the target market of every day digital health tools, it has dawned on me that there lies a challenge of integrating these tools successfully into our patient’s daily lives. But, that challenge doesn’t lie with a potential consumer like myself. As a computer scientist, I am more tech-savvy than the average millennial and I normally run towards the new gadget, not away from it.
A person without a chronic health condition who is not extremely-health conscious or knowledgeable about their health is less likely to have the immediate trust in a device or see the necessity to incorporate one in their daily routine. With this person there is bound to be friction when it comes to using and benefiting from digital health tools.
With that, I explore the inevitable question, whose job is it to convince the patients that digital health tools are worth using?
I believe it is the job of the digital health tool and its marketers to show and educate people what benefit they serve. For example with voice assistants in-home or embedded in cars or mHealth applications, a daily prompt is absolutely necessary. This looks like a simple, “How are you feeling today?” at a chosen time of day with eventual unprompted feedback on mood patterns. The gist is that people may need to be poked and reminded to use the digital health tol until they can see for themselves how these tools can help.
Normal people are not accustomed to collecting their own data and using it to make decisions on their health daily. So, they are going to have to be trained or guided. I believe there are three big hurdles to transitioning into a world where everybody is constantly remote monitoring their health and using digital health to the fullest extent.
The first hurdle is trust and security–consumers will not want to use any digital health tool if they do not feel the people marketing the tool are credible or that they have their security as a priority. Consumers will have to be convinced that what they are using will actually help them and is worth the effort of using.
The second is going to be education–we use words so often that mean absolutely nothing to the consumer (e.g. digital, artificial intelligence). These are complex terms are not only a turn off but they put consumers on a different page where they don’t necessarily see automatically that this tool could apply to them. This also entails safeguarding patients against inaccurate information.
The third is going to be cost and accessibility–if consumers cannot afford the device and it’s not covered by insurance or seemly backed by the healthcare system, they will not engage.
It’s no surprise that us in the tech and medical community live in a bubble. We are in the conversation on a daily basis and we understand the gaps of quality healthcare in our lives and how digital health fills that space. But for those who don’t easily see those gaps, we need to show them and help them understand why they matter and how “digital” can be their friend.