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Digital health ecosystems – the new golden opportunity

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Technology’s influence over health and wellness is nothing new. From Galileo’s invention of the first rudimentary thermometers, to the connected trackers we see today, technology and health have been interlinked throughout history. But as the health and wellness market becomes saturated with apps, devices, wearables and trackers, a new opportunity has emerged – how best to utilise the wealth of data this provides.

Successful brands will be those who help consumers navigate this data deluge and connect disparate singular data-streams into a holistic connected approach. By making data relevant, personal and actionable, and understanding the role they play within connected health systems, brands can deepen their connection with consumers and drive further growth.

The surge in online wellness

The digital health market is booming – in the next 6 years, it’s expected to increase by 6x to nearly $640 billion USD globally (Statista). This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was awash with wearables, apps and devices that deliver medical-grade technology into the palm of consumers’ hands. Among some of the top exhibits included Xenoma’s eSkin which incorporates health-tracking technology into clothing, Digitsole – footwear that measures gait, balance and predicts early onset of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, a tidal wave of trackers including the Withings ScanWatch which boasts a medical-grade ECG, and a surge of sleep tech.

Of course, it doesn’t stop at wearables or apps. Health tech has made its way throughout our homes and devices, from connected exercise equipment, to smart fridges, which monitor our food levels, track nutrition data and provide healthy meal prep recommendations.

The market is saturated with new health-tech, which is becoming increasingly powerful, tracking our every move, calorie and heartbeat. And with this comes the real opportunity for brands and healthcare providers – utilising the data. 

The informed patient

Patients are arriving to their healthcare provider with more information than ever before. By placing health-tech in the hands of consumers, we’ve moved beyond Doctor Google and into the realms of tech-enabled monitoring, prevention and diagnosis, before we’ve even reached our GP. This wealth of data has the power to transform the healthcare industry, but it also poses the risk that patients may bypass their healthcare provider altogether.

With the rise of the informed patient comes the rise in choice of treatment options. More data means more choice, and from a consumer’s perspective, the healthcare professional may no longer know best. This provides both a threat and a golden opportunity for healthcare providers. The golden opportunity lies in learning from the tech disruptors and connecting the multiple data streams into one holistic ecosystem, re-imagining the patient experience in a way that focuses on adding meaningful value to people’s lives. The question is who will get there first…healthcare providers or big tech.

Connected health ecosystems

Connected digital ecosystems have long been the desire of digital strategists and brands alike. Connectedness is about combining multiple data sets into something more personal, and ultimately useful, to a customer. The finance sector has made big leaps in this sector – think of ClearScore’s integrated credit scoring reports, which take multiple data sources and combine them into one easy-to-read personal report. Or the launch of Open Banking, allowing consumers to combine their financial data to find new ways to make the most of their money. This approach will revolutionise healthcare.

Digital health ecosystems were the fastest growing segment of CES, as brands, big tech and healthcare providers compete to be the go-to destination for health and wellbeing, by turning multiple data sources into holistic actionable plans. And whilst healthcare data comes with the obvious complexities of privacy and security, we know that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data for more personalised experiences (Accenture2).

The big players have already moved into this field and will continue to do so – Google’s acquisition of Fitbit leads to interesting opportunities for its Google Health division, whilst Alibaba’s partnership with the Merck Group demonstrates how the big retailers are making moves into the field of personalised medicine products.

Whether delivered by a healthcare provider, or by big tech, connected health ecosystems will play a huge part in consumers’ lives going forwards, taking multiple streams of data and providing personally relevant recommendations for their users. And with these recommendations comes immense influence over what we do, what we buy, and what we consume. So, what might this mean for brands?

Brands must forge a role within wellness

Digital health ecosystems will be one of the biggest disruptors to the consumer purchase journey. To get a glimpse of where this is heading, look no further than DNANudge, which combines DNA testing and personalised nutritional information to ‘nudge’ users to make healthier shopping decisions while shopping for groceries. The power this will have over shopping behaviours is something most advertisers could only dream of. As connected health ecosystems draw on additional data sources, these recommendations will become increasingly personalised, powerful, and influential.

So, where do brands go from here? It’s vital for brands to carve out a role for themselves within holistic wellness, by understanding their positioning, the role they play, and the partners they need to deliver this. A great example comes from Nestlé’s collaboration with the With/n app, in a move that takes the brand beyond product and into wider nutritional health. The health-focussed app connects multiple data sources to provide personalised recommendations and plans, allowing Nestlé to have a deeper relationship and more meaningful connection with its customers. The growth opportunities this presents are huge – as households become increasingly connected to these ecosystems, so too do opportunities for cross-sell, increasing average basket-size and driving loyalty.

The surge in digital health tech has led to more information, more data, more devices, and ultimately more noise. We know the golden opportunity lies in harnessing this data into a holistic and personally relevant health ecosystem, but the question remains of who will get there first out of the traditional healthcare companies, big tech and retailers. Those who do, will have the biggest influence over purchasing decisions in decades. Brands who get it right might just find themselves nudged into the baskets and lives of their consumers in more meaningful ways.


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