Authors: Gintare Greenfeld, Senior Digital Healthcare Analyst and Matt Arnold, Principal Analyst
The below is an excerpt from our Telehealth & Connected Care report from the Manhattan Research Cybercitizen Health® study - find out if your company is already a client to receive the full report. We also work with healthcare brands to help plan data-driven patient support, telehealth and connected care initiatives - contact us to learn more.
“Connected care” is kind of like the promised land of healthcare futurism – if you squint, you can almost see a hazy outline, far off in the distance, but the road seems so long you wonder if you’ll ever get there, and if it will all prove to have been just a mirage, in the end.
These buzzy health tech concepts seldom live up to the initial hype, at least in the short term (just ask Watson!). But technologies like virtual visits and remote monitoring are maturing more rapidly than many in the healthcare industries realize, and are already disrupting long-established ways of providing care in profound ways.
Let’s go big picture: we’re in the very early stages of a technologically driven revolution in healthcare that will see us move from an erratic, episodic mode of care centered on fixed points in time and space—bricks-and-mortar doctors’ offices and hospitals—to one that is continuous, ubiquitous, partially automated, and largely remote. Use of virtual visits remains modest today (according to our Cybercitizen Health® study, one in five U.S. online adults has used a virtual consult in the past 12 months), but buy-in from private insurers, health systems, and pharmacies suggests rapid near-term growth. The advent of patient self-tracking and the rapidly expanding ecosystem of health and medical sensor tech foretell a world in which key health metrics will be continuously monitored through a plethora of ambient devices and fed into intelligent systems capable of flagging concerning patterns and providing actionable analyses to healthcare professionals.
These things will fill in the gaps between in-person visits, establishing an electronic feedback loop between patients and providers and displacing the doctor’s office as the epicenter of care provision.
Despite continued legal wrangling in some states over the scope of practice permissible, virtual visits are already resulting in real-world actions, including writing prescriptions and treatment switches (27% of virtual consult users say they received a prescription and 21% had their medication switched as a result of a virtual consult). Barriers remain -- regulations around telehealth in U.S. states are complex and in flux, although generally moving toward greater openness, and avenues for Medicare reimbursement are few and very narrow, although private market payers and providers are pushing ahead. Policy and execution are lagging the technology, which already enables virtual visits and will soon enable the construction of sophisticated remote monitoring systems.
For healthcare marketers in the near term, this scenario creates niche opportunities for beyond-the-pill offerings that provide actionable patient data and broader opportunities for digital provision of patient education and support. Patients are already accessing online information from their smartphones in the exam room, and soon, many consults will take place remotely. As the point-of-care shifts online, the value of pharma digital assets increases exponentially across the board.
In the longer term, marketers will need to rethink point-of-care communication as provision becomes continuous and decentralized. Integrating product communications and support services into the new rhythms of this electronic feedback loop will be critical to marketing success.
It’s a long road, and the landscape is changing rapidly and unpredictably around it. We’ll be scanning the horizon and looking for opportunities for pharma to improve provision of care and the patient experience as these technologies advance and come together.
Contact us to learn more about Telemedicine and Connected Care report, as well as how we've helped healthcare brands plan data-driven patient support, telehealth and connected care initiatives tailored to their audience and objectives.