When you think about patients and their health issues, you tend to take one of two approaches: you either focus on things more granularly or you look at the bigger picture. Let’s call this micro vs macro. Macro issues might include what connects the larger patient population to issues around a particular disease. Macro looks at statistics and demographics of a patient population. But when you think about patients on a micro level, you get an understanding of how specific patients deal with the everyday realities of living with an illness.
A micro look at a patient’s experience dealing with chronic disease on a daily basis offers practical, real evidence of the impact of the disease. How does the patient cope with the “new normal” their illness has imposed? What -- and how severe -- are the side effects of their treatment? Will they be able to continue to work? Do they have the energy to participate in family activities? Will they have the stamina to continue to battle their disease? Do they even have a choice? Getting micro with things is about dealing with life’s health realities, real time. This isn’t the big picture that maps out how others are experiencing the same thing.
I am who I am.
Micro is individual and illuminates individuality. One patient may be stalwart and see the glass half full even when their health is in dire straits. No one can predict such a positive attitude, but it’s who this person is, how they deal. Another patient may spend every moment complaining about “what might have been,” even when there may be cause for optimism. Interestingly, these outlooks and coping mechanisms affect a patient’s physical and mental health.
We are family.
When it comes to looking at things on a macro level, you go from understanding an actual person living with a disease to understanding how the disease impacts a population at large. We are able to “get under the hood” and see how patients behave as a whole based on this understanding. Segmentation includes psychosocial buckets, aligned against various demographics. We are able to communicate with patients based on which segment they fall in, predicting how we can best impact behavior and drive them further along in their health continuum.
When you leverage analytics and measurement to take a deep dive (discovery) into a patient population, you have data that can help inform what and how you communicate with your audience—not to mention an understanding of where the touch points are—so that the channels you employ are most relevant.
The diabetes population, for example, would warrant a behavior modification approach because this goes to the root cause of diabetes. Tips, tools, and communications could address patients’ issues, which in effect could drive healthier behavior. Nowadays, this approach can be served up as a mobile app or an online destination where patients can become and stay motivated based on tracking their progress and receiving alerts that gently remind them to keep going. One example of such a mobile app is the Carb Counter, which tracks carbs, daily food/water intake, and sugar levels. It helps diabetics adopt an overall healthier lifestyle.
Bringing it all together.
Mobile technologies generally tend to fall into the category of personal health tracking through the active participation of the user. Increasingly, however, biomonitors that track motion, vitals, insulin levels, sleep patterns, and the like are emerging as the new frontier in micro health management. And at the macro level, the ultimate promise of electronic health records is a vast and longitudinal view of the use of specific treatments or medicine and the impact they have on the management of a disease state. These are two areas of technologic enablement that offer transformative opportunities in both micro and macro health outcomes.
Utilizing both the micro and the macro approach is the clear way to go to drive better outcomes. And one thing's for sure—technology is opening up huge opportunities in both areas, in some instances simultaneously and others in tandem. The challenge is to motivate both HCPs and patients to use the technology.