Health Hackers

We live in a time where just about everything is being hacked. The current “hacking” dynamic has grown beyond the computer security context to be more about appropriation: taking something intended for a specific use and making it serve one’s own use. And hacking occurs in almost every vertical; it’s even crossing cultures. The important question for us as marketers is: what's motivating the hackers? Very often, hacking is about solving an unmet need of the end user. It’s a perfect example of the customer telling the brand what he or she wants, not the other way around.

Hack to the future

As marketers, one of our main jobs is to empower consumers to take in information and take action, ultimately driving a specific behavior. What does this have to do with hacking? Well, hacking is part of the conversation between a brand and its users. Rather than automatically setting up barriers to prevent it, there might be an opportunity to learn from it.



Imagine you were a patient with a chronic disease and you could collaborate with a group of technologists and engineers to create personalized work-a-rounds to help you perform tasks you'd previously been barely jerry-rigging in real life. Imagine the power to truly take command of your health by hacking standard objects that leave you feeling marginalized so that now, in their hacked state, they function in a way that meets your needs. With this newfound support, you could even be led to change your behavior and take better care of yourself. 

Necessity breeds invention

The company OXO Good Grips came into being because the wife of its inventor Sam Farber had rheumatoid arthritis and had a hard time gripping objects and getting around her household. He created objects that mimicked universal work-a-rounds that could help enable her to live with her debilitating disease as normally as possible. This one example is incredibly relevant to where we are today. Mr Farber saw an opportunity to ”hack” products so that they were universally designed to make living easier.

Patient hack-a-thons? 

Fast forward to today. What health and wellness advancements would patients choose to hack if given the chance? We know that wearables are interesting and have potential. We've pointed out that most patients don’t realize the true impact wearables can have on their overall health. But by the same token, do we as marketers know? Do the brands themselves even know? What potential is waiting to be unlocked by the end users themselves as wearables make their way into the mainstream?

Similarly, apps that help track a patient’s daily disease management and lifestyle are plentiful. While we need these simple tools to make living with disease easier, imagine these same tools connecting straight to a patient’s healthcare professional so that the discussion happens in real time. Maybe one way to go would be to bring together a group of patients with a particular condition and see the kinds of tools that might make a difference to them. Do we host a hack-a-thon and let the patients guide the technologists? Instead of letting the technologists think for the patients? 

Hack in the shoes of the patient

The most successful ideas come from those who have actually “walked in the shoes” and experienced a situation. They know what they need. Patients who understand living with a condition also know what might help them manage the condition better; we can let them hack the next idea they'll use to improve their health. What better way to ensure we are providing solutions that are relevant and authentic. Healthy hacking.

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