Health and wellness are inextricable and of increasing importance, evidenced by the explosion of the wellness industry into a multi trillion-dollar market. Americans’ interest and willingness to invest in their well-being has been met by the creation of an overwhelming number of companies and products that enable individuals to achieve better overall wellness. At the same time, our health is declining. Our life expectancy has decreased year-over-year, largely due to preventable causes. 

The healthcare industry has an opportunity to bridge the gap between our aspiration for wellness and the true state of our health. It’s a tall order, surely, but can be accomplished by empowering customers to embed the innovative health and wellness products within their everyday life seamlessly. Digital Transformation can enable personalized consumer experiences to drive customer empowerment like near before. 

Consumer Personas – to deliver breakthrough Consumer Experiences

Our most recent blog introduced how to apply design thinking to better the patient experience, improve outcomes and lower costs. But it’s not as simple as modifying patient rooms. An individual’s healthcare experience is layered and encompasses more than the four walls of a healthcare facility. 

We make numerous daily decisions that positively or negatively impact our health, from what time we go to sleep, to what we chose to eat, to if we take the stairs or elevator. Gauging the potential impact of these choices and how we can intervene to change outcomes starts with building personas. 

Personas are fictional characters reflective of an organization’s population or target demographic. Personas bring design thinking to life by humanizing members, patients and encouraging an empathetic approach to identifying innovative solutions to unmet, unarticulated and unserved consumer needs. 

A costly issue for hospitals is non-payment following treatment in the Emergency Department (ED). One of the most common reasons people visit the ED is breathing difficulties. Respiratory problems are commonly associated with obesity, a chronic condition roughly 40 percent of U.S. adults have.

To understand how to stop losing revenue in the ED, a patient persona created by leaders of a hospital system in Mississippi, a state with a high rate of obesity, may look like the following:

Gary, 55-years-old

  • Gary’s spouse passed away
  • He became depressed
  • He stopped taking his dog for daily walks his wife used to join
  • Not confident in his ability to cook, he began eating fast food regularly
  • He became overweight, then obese 
  • He developed cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, both commonly associated with obesity
  • He lost his job because of absenteeism, leaving him uninsured
  • He went to the ED presenting chest pains
  • He was unable to pay for ED services rendered

Design thinking encourages the use of personas to understand what may lead a person to make the choices they do throughout their lifecycle journey and potential outcomes. Design thinking techniques can help generate and test new ideas for making guided choices to achieve better target outcomes. In Gary’s case, one or more interventions could have prevented him from becoming obese.

Historically, clinical protocol was to treat a patient’s presenting symptoms. As member and patient experience has become a priority, payers and providers are more apt to use a holistic approach, looking at emotional, physical and socio-economic factors to understand the person vs. the patient and providing needed resources and a support team.

Looking at Gary’s persona, a care manager would see several opportunities for intervention. Did the psychologist he visited after his wife’s passing to receive a prescription for antidepressants encourage him to regularly attend a support group? Did his primary care physician connect him with a nutritionist when they noted a dramatic weight increase at his annual physical? Did his cardiologist offer to write a letter to his employer regarding his need to take extra time off?

In addition to understanding patients on a deeper level and honing in on opportunities to enhance their care, personas underscore the importance of communication and collaboration across caregivers ecosystem. 

Continuum Of Care

In the continuum of care model, a coordinated effort is made to provide care for people over an extended period of time, allowing seamless transitions between providers. This relationship-based vs. transactional approach to care is not new, but it is underutilized. One survey of healthcare professionals revealed that while 95 percent of respondents believe “successful care collaboration leads to reduced admissions,” they feel stymied by the process, citing outdated technologies as a barrier to collaboration. Seventy-one percent of survey takers indicated they have “wasted time trying to communicate with the broader care team.” 

Consumers are frustrated too. Sixty-three percent of American adults want to improve their health but feel “there is too much conflicting information” about how to do so. An even greater number report needing help determining the best methods for improving their health.

Physicians prioritize face-to-face interactions with patients and have little time to take on administrative tasks associated with care coordination. Care Managers struggle with finding resources to match patient needs. At the same time, patients need assistance to achieve optimal health. 

Bridging The Gap

Technology enables us to work smarter, not harder. Companies offering health and wellness-related tech solutions have a real opportunity to help people improve their health while removing burden from healthcare professionals. 

Addressing consumer pain points will position tech solutions providers for success.

Pain point: Consumers expect convenient and sustainable fitness and wellness options that fit into their lifestyle.

     Opportunity: Assisted fitness, personalized lifestyle training and management programs that help them in leading a healthy life.

Pain point: Consumers expect easy-to-use, affordable, self-management tools to keep tabs on their vitals, medications, etc.

     Opportunity: Effortless digital tools/solutions integrated with smartphones/provider systems for just-in-time, preventive care.

In Gary’s case, his psychologist could suggest a virtual therapist such as Talkspace. His insurer could provide a discount code for a healthy meal delivery service like Home Chef. By receiving recommendations for tech that’s tailored to address him personally, Gary’s experience with his health could be markedly improved. 

It Takes A Village

Solutions providers must meet consumers where they are, satisfying their desires for on-demand, easy-to-use health and wellness tools. At the same time, healthcare organizations must embrace new ways of thinking and modern technology for its ability to empower patients to live healthier lives and lesson burden on providers. 

When the tech and healthcare industries work together to improve the healthcare journey, everybody wins.

Our next post in our series on simple will explore how to use the incredible amount of data we have at our disposal to enable the consumer experience. 

Jayesh brings over 18 years of experience in business strategy and operations across multiple industries globally to his role as Vice President, Consulting and Digital Practice at emids. Jayesh has been actively engaged with top Fortune 100 organizations in the US healthcare industry developing and executing strategy to reduce administrative and medical costs, improve member and provider experience, instill a business outcome focused culture and build innovation capabilities. He plays a key leadership role in growing emids portfolio of strategic innovative solutions addressing business challenges related to access, quality and cost of healthcare as well as driving value based partnerships. Be sure to connect with Jayesh on LinkedIn.