Healthcare 2012: Facing A Healthy Dose Of Reality

The healthcare conversation is changing, and is no longer merely an exchange between doctor and patient. That’s forcing healthcare brands to look for ways to bridge the gap between operational needs and patient/consumer expectations. And, as their consumers age, healthcare marketers also need to keep abreast of the trends affecting perhaps the fastest-growing group, namely, the Boomers.

So what are some of those trends?

Healthcare Consumerism
Technology will help Boomers become even more empowered, informed and educated. It’s no surprise that Boomers are more engrossed than most in managing their own health, and are likely to consult a personal network for opinions on diagnoses and treatments. Even those with chronic diseases are engaging in online health conversations, in the belief that sharing experiences and blogging about treatment can provide support for peers, help promote scientific breakthroughs, and track their own progress. For a great example of this type of online community, check out HealCam.com.

The Mobile Revolution
MHealth (a related entry was recently posted on this blog) will no doubt keep evolving and expanding in scope. As technology continues to change how we communicate, healthcare brands will be expected to not only meet — but exceed — consumer demand for more digital health management. It’s not just about access, though. How care is managed through technology is even more important.

Operationally, the industry is requiring services to better integrate with consumers’ everyday lives, improve care and lower costs. And, with chronic disease becoming more prevalent as they age, Boomers in the roles of caregivers and users will be key to the adoption of these kinds of technologies. They already view in-home monitoring systems and devices as an aid to aging-in-place and maintaining control and independence, and more than half are willing to use these tools if they’ll help successfully manage their health.

A Graying America
By 2030, the over-65 population will double, increasing the burden on medical services, especially in the emergency room. Many hospitals are preparing for the influx by designing emergency departments to accommodate older patients (adding soothing color palettes and extra-thick mattresses, for example, and hiring staff members trained in geriatrics). Creating age-friendly environments and products will allow brands to remain competitive and build loyalty.

“Well”thy Aspirations
Although family, friends and doctors have influence over Boomers’ and seniors’ outlooks on wellness, it will be important to offer wellness programs that manage all aspects of aging. According to research conducted by Sodexo Senior Living, 80% of older adults feel younger than their age, believe they have purpose in life, and feel mentally alert. There are multiple dimensions to their lives, and they consider wellness to be multidimensional as well. In other words, it’s more than exercise – it’s also emotional, social, nutritional and spiritual.

Comprehensive wellness programs are less about prevention and more about maintaining and optimizing health and wellness. It’s a trend seen in various retirement communities, and will no doubt grow, along with the expansion of in-home and community-based services.

Opportunities
Healthcare leadership is constantly juggling urgent and wide-ranging needs. It’s one thing to keep track of demographic shifts, and it’s quite another to have proactive plans and strategies in place to respond to important trends. To test your foresight as a healthcare or brand marketer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What plans do we have in place to respond to these trends?
  • Does our strategic plan take into account the impact the aging Boomer population has on our current service lines?
  • Does our brand have the flexibility to speak to the mature market?
  • Does our understanding of the various dimensions of wellness position us to help Boomers achieve their healthy-living aspirations?
  • Are we leveraging online platforms people are already using in ways that harness their instincts to share information while supporting their need to feel more empowered?

 

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