For over a decade, we’ve been advising our clients and colleagues to “take a walk in the shoes of your customer” — to understand and empathize with the plight of patients and caregivers, so you can “get into their skin” and know how best to communicate with them.
Well, it’s really no different today, except now the shoes are walking in a technology-centered world, where devices and apps are doing more things to help these people manage and maintain their health.
Using technology to solve human problems
In the decade of walking in the shoes, technology has evolved at a speed that is outpacing that of humans — yet interestingly, in the process of evolution, it recognizes the need to address a human problem: health. In many ways, technology understands how to better connect and drive engagement and action in patients and caregivers, perhaps even more than humans do. And technology for health is in its nascent stage, just beginning to define the future and where it will lead to real time and future time, better outcomes.
Biometrics and biofeedback: the patients’ new shoes
“Walking in the shoes” takes on new meaning when it comes to technology-enabled health tracking. The foundation of health management has been episodic. When something happens, we go to the doctor and iterate the process of “describe, discuss, prescribe.” Continuous management and feedback on vitals, biometrics, pill compliance, and other real-world behavior will enable a shift towards continuous medicine — and in very real terms, allow for “walking in the patients’ shoes” beyond episodic empathy and sensitivity. We will see and understand the health transformation of people in real time by observing their lives, their health metrics, and their outcomes.
The key areas of innovation could be bucketed into four categories:
The investment in these areas and the proliferation of companies developing innovative solutions is dramatic. Remote monitoring of pill compliance through programmed pill dispensers, use of biofeedback in managing ADHD and depression, exome-sequenced interventional logic for personalized and preventive medicine, and next-generation robotics to enhance or replace limbs are “always-on” platforms that change the function of a provider from somewhere between an interviewer and a detective to an analyst. As a financial advisor manages his fund’s health by constantly monitoring data, the provider-patient-caregiver relationship stands to be transformed to a proactive monitoring-driven intervention approach over an exacerbation-driven intervention approach.
Sensitivity and empathy are at the heart of the idea of “walking in the patients’ shoes,” and will always be at the core of care. Technology simply amplifies what is actionable and when.