Is the Copernican Consumer too good to be true?
After 27 years in the healthcare industry, I’ve developed some specific ideas about consumer engagement in healthcare – particularly personal health engagement. We have seen amazing advancements over the last three decades, and innovation has only accelerated in the last few years. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that remote sensors and diagnostics will enable more and more care shifting to telehealth, and that every assessment we might receive in a primary care setting could be available on our wrists (or at least in a small kit we could put in our pocket).
In our new book, Joe Public 2030, we begin our predictions by focusing on “The Copernican Consumer.” This is the high-level summary of our prediction:
“Consumers will become the center of their own health universe more than ever before, enabled by sensors, AI, and other technology, as well as services geared toward empowering them, leading to profound implications for both consumers and healthcare organizations. Potential results could include a dramatic reduction in the need for primary care clinicians, an entirely new sector devoted to personal health management, true precision medicine combined with health management, and more.”The Copernican Consumer, Joe Public 2030: Five Potent Predictions Reshaping How Consumers Engage Healthcare
Can consumers make sound healthcare decisions financially?
I agree with the acceleration in technological innovation and the changes in services geared toward empowering consumers. However, my conclusions might be a little different.
One, as long as consumers are so disconnected from the financial implications of their personal health and their healthcare choices, I wonder whether consumers will be at the center the way Copernicus placed the Sun at the center of the universe. All the sensors, AI, and technology in the world won’t matter if consumers can’t make good financial choices regarding the care they need, starting with which providers are in-network and knowing what costs they will incur before they receive care. Tools to support good consumer decision making are too rare, and provider organizations can help deliver solutions that improve health literacy and health insurance literacy.
We address this disconnect in our second prediction, “Constricted Consumerism,” which shows that the U.S. healthcare system may not offer (or will not offer) all the choices implied by the term “consumerism” especially from a financial standpoint. Not only may consumers not make the right choices, they may not be able to afford to, or they may not even have the choice made available to them in the first place.
Is personal health monitoring enough to motivate consumers?
Two, I think the vexing question about consumers is a question about motivation. Whatever the sensors and AI and data show, do consumers really want to change? Are they willing to engage with the data that is collected and make changes to their diet, exercise, sleep, and other choices that affect their health? I often wonder if the barriers to better health consumers are internal rather than lack of data or good advice.
In some ways we would hope that by making things easier – a sensor on your shoulder that automatically measures blood sugar, rather than pricking your finger three times a day – people will make better choices. Yet that’s an example of eliminating friction (or pain) – which is relatively easy. What if the end result is having to exercise more, reduce alcohol consumption, or make other important lifestyle choices?
The Copernican Consumer cannot only focus on more/better/faster data and information – we know already that’s not enough to motivate behavior change at scale. Consumers must be guided toward better health decisions through decision-making tools, messaging, creative, and influencer strategies.
A marketers’ role in enabling consumer health decisions
The good news? Marketing can play a central role in helping solve problems one and two. Marketing can help license or develop – and deploy – tools to help consumers better understand their health insurance, the financial implications of their choices, and how to make better health choices.
Marketing can also play the central role with consumer motivation. More than any other department or discipline in a hospital or health system or health tech company, marketing understands how consumers think, how to reach them, and how to motivate them to action. Marketing can help the “new consumer” engage with their personal health in new ways, make better decisions, and choose the right care with the right provider. With the right attention from health marketers, The Copernican Consumer may not be so far out of reach after all.
Revive is uniquely positioned to navigate changing consumer needs and wants, and uniquely able to connect all the dots necessary to reach the Copernican Consumer. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can partner together, let us know here.