Never Mind Self-Diagnosis; Self-Treatment Is The New Challenge

It should be no surprise for a healthcare marketer to hear that patient self-diagnosis is increasing at alarming rates. WebMD.com reported a 60% increase in traffic from 2008 to today with Q4 2010 results showing a staggering 86 million users per month. An international report published last year by British health insurer Bupa indicated that 46% of those who searched online for health information were doing it to help them make a self-diagnosis.

I would argue that no industry has been impacted by the rise of digital more than heathcare. With the Internet providing instant access to information, people are increasingly taking health matters into their own hands. Now, with the proliferation of smartphones and rapid advances in mobile technology, consumers are going well beyond self-diagnosis to actually treating their own -- not excluding life-threatening -- injuries and other heath emergencies. Rich online content and state-of-the-art mobile apps are helping to save lives before a patient ever gets in to see a medical professional.

Pocket First Aid & CPR is a mobile app that provides individuals with clear instructions on how to address injuries and ailments, including emergency situations, such as heart attacks and choking. Fire Department App locates CPR-trained individuals in the vicinity of a heart attack victim who can administer the procedure until the ambulance arrives.

Interestingly, while more consumers are becoming their own first source of care, hospitals and healthcare systems across the country are scrutinizing their processes and procedures. They are aggressively managing their practices in an effort to shave minutes off wait times and improve responsiveness. A good example is Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee, Fla., where outdoor boards tout the current wait time in the ER. And, InQuickER.com is enabling "patient reservations" in one of the emergency rooms within its network of healthcare facilities. All of these apps, sites and other programs are designed for one purpose -- to give patients access to faster care.

Today's more informed consumer wants to know what to do when the clock starts ticking, just as the incident is happening and before an EMT arrives or you get to the doors to the emergency room. You can expect that more social networking platforms and apps will become available to consumers every day to not only aid in self-diagnosis and treatment, but also to give them a forum to rate healthcare providers and medical professionals on everything from quality of care to timeliness to bedside manner.

So, what is a healthcare marketer to do to continue to compete effectively as we enter into a new era of smarter consumers who have come to expect quick access to healthcare?

  • Healthcare providers must respond with a more aggressive approach to convincing patients you can provide them with faster and better access to care, whether in your facility or via technology that they can carry with them. And, yes, that probably means completely rethinking your marketing strategy.
  • Marketers need to work closely with physicians to ensure that any patient support initiative you provide doesn't interfere with the patient's motivation or ability to seek care from a trained medical professional.
  • Healthcare marketers must collaborate with their counterparts in operations to utilize mobile technology to addresses this new patient-driven stage of pre-care. Start exploring opportunities to develop life-saving apps and other innovative programs that help patients through the period from when the injury or health emergency happens to the time when they are in the care of a first responder or medical professional.

The good news is that being one of the first brands in your competitive set to address changing patient expectations in innovative ways can provide you with a distinct point-of-difference, and better yet, a competitive advantage.

Tags: health
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1 comment about "Never Mind Self-Diagnosis; Self-Treatment Is The New Challenge ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , May 17, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.

    First you have to argue that no industry has been impacted by the rise in COSTS more than healthcare. Of course the importance of technology in medical fields for the professional and consumer has no equal. The ranks of the uninsureed increase everyday. The greed filled profit growing insurance and pharmas raise the bar for coverage and affordability more impossible everyday for more people everyday. This guarantees a market for alternatives where there will be others who will make another fortune off of the unfortunate.