Imagine this: You get a reminder on your smart watch around 5pm to take your statin medication to lower your cholesterol. Because you have taken your pills for 30 days straight, you get a coupon for 10% off a new pair of running shoes.
Sound crazy? It's not. Walgreens has already experimented with a program that gamifies prescription drug adherence. That program was web-based, but in the near future, IoT devices will provide a personalized venue for drug companies to reach patients.
The impetus is technology. While AI and big data are moving medicine closer to offering better diagnoses and helping discover more effective treatments to cancer, wearable tech will offer an effective treatment for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It can also help non-sufferers take proactive steps toward monitoring their own health.
Medical marketers and insurers have an entree into this conversation as well. In the future, they can do more than send coupons and gamify pill-taking; they'll be able to become health coaches to consumers and curators of healthcare solutions. But they need to use a great deal of discretion to get their messaging across without alienating users. Here's how healthcare marketers can navigate this new environment:
Use reminder notifications. This is the most obvious entree to this discussion and, as discussed, Walgreens has already taken this route. But others are looking to create new touchpoints for consumers as well. IDC predicts that by next year, 70% of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest in consumer-facing mobile apps, wearables, remote health monitoring and virtual care. Such interventions work -- a Mayo Clinic study found that smartphone apps, text messaging reminders and other digital technologies helped patients with cardiovascular disease cut their risk of a heart attack by a statistically significant 1.24%. For pharma companies, wearables offer the opportunity to add services to their product. If you're taking pills, for instance, the pharma company can provide an opt-in reminder function that will alert you when it's time to take your meds. Such reminders can help the efficacy of their products and provide a stronger connection to the pharma brand.
Use voice-based services. Amazon's Alexa doesn't just tell jokes. She can also walk you through cardiopulmonary resuscitation if someone in the household suffers a heart attack and answer questions about your children's illnesses. As consumers get more comfortable with voice-based communication with tech, marketers will also be able to remind consumers to adhere to their stated health goals. When you ask Alexa what's for dinner, she might suggest a salad or soup to stay on track for lowering your cholesterol.
Present users with lower-cost alternatives and related options.Consumers who are taking one medication or another often aren't aware that a lower-priced alternative exists. Wearable and IoT-based communication provides an opportunity to create awareness and to market related products, like running shoes. The catch is that consumers may balk at the idea of receiving ad messages on such devices. Ad-supported apps are the exception. Consumers may be fine with ad messages if they're getting a free version of a paid app in exchange for hearing or viewing ads. Insurers may also find such media a fertile environment for their messages as well.
Wearables and IoT aren't just new technologies. They are enabling technologies that will put healthcare's focus on prevention rather than treatment. Currently, we spend about 5% of our healthcare dollar on the latter.
The result will be fewer chronic diseases and better detection of potentially deadly episodes like heart attacks. And as consumers take more control of their health, healthcare brands will be right by their sides, often literally.