Back in mid-2007, in the midst of conducting in-depth research and analysis of the evolving digital health landscape, Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet and American Life Project recommended I read a publication co-developed by the late Tom Ferguson, MD, titled ePatients: How They Can Help Us Heal Healthcare. This prophetic white paper introduced many of the digital trends we take for granted today, including the use of the Web and digital tools for health research, the rise of patient-powered social networks and more.
One defining characteristic of the ePatient outlined in Ferguson’s white paper was that these individuals were prompted by circumstance or inner drive to become proactive stewards of their own care. However, the ePatients described in the publication were a rare breed, as most people were not actively using digital tools to learn about and manage their health. Even today, this is still largely the case, as illustrated by how few people employ technology to track their health status or frequently use mobile health applications.
While the steady march of technological progress will play a role in changing this dynamic over time, there is another factor that may accelerate uptake of a range of digital tools: Obamacare. When this legislation comes fully online in 2014, the health system will experience a range of changes, including:
These shifts will mean that for some becoming an empowered ePatient will no longer be an option, especially if they have to become more active managers of their care. Of primary concern for many will be how to minimize out of pocket expenses and successfully navigate the health system.
In this environment, it stands to reason that digital technologies will play an increasingly important role in how people learn about and manage their care. Our ongoing research initiative digihealth pulse is partly focused on forecasting which digital tools people are most likely to turn to. Data we have collected thus far suggests some key technologies ePatients may adopt could include:
The Challenges Associated With This New Landscape
By 2015 (if not before), health executives may have to contend with a range of challenges, including:
The Time to Prepare for the Future is Now
Have you considered how the changes that will sweep the health system over the next few years will impact you? Are you prepared to meet the digital and informational needs of ePatient 2015? If not, why?
If you are interested in learning more about the trends that will define the connected patient of the near future, I’m developing a publication on this topic with bestselling author and marketing strategist Rohit Bhargava. Learn more about this book and register to receive a free copy upon its release by clicking here.