The Copernican Consumer
I’m a bit of a health sensor nerd. Though I already own an Apple Watch, Amazon’s Halo band, and a Withings scale, I recently purchased an Oura Ring. Just thinking about how its data can teach me to sleep better gets my heart going pitter-patter (and yes, I have the heart rate data to prove it).
So it’s no surprise that geeks like me were excited in January when CES 2022 included announcements about Sengled’s smart lightbulbs that measure your vitals from afar, SleepNumber’s 360 mattress (which promises to assist with sleep apnea and insomnia), and the latest version of Toto’s Wellness Toilet, which analyzes your poo and provides health recommendations. It wouldn’t be CES if some of the announcements didn’t seem a bit … out there.
But here’s the thing. Even with sensors-sensors-everywhere, we’re only in the infancy of what will one day move from the ‘Internet of Things’ to the ‘Internet of Health’.
The future of health tech
In Revive’s fourth and final book in the Joe Public series, Joe Public 2030, we explore the future of health through five predictions based on cultural, technological, and industry trends. The first prediction paints a picture for exactly what this ‘Internet of Health’ will become in the next decade. And it’s not just about sensors, devices, and wearables. Blockchain, AI-driven healthcare, and personalized medicine will all converge to form the Copernican Consumer.
“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.”Copernican Consumer, Joe Public 2030: 5 Potent Predictions Reshaping How Consumers Engage Healthcare
As noted in Joe Public 2030, “your body is a data land” (cue John Mayer on repeat in your brain for the rest of the day). Your body is constantly producing a massive amount of health data. Imagine the opportunities healthcare consumers and organizations will have when technology allows us to read this data, interpret it, and make real-time health recommendations 24/7.
Using valuable health data
More importantly, the real shift occurs when you (the consumer) receive those recommendations directly and instantly — in one seamless place. Imagine today’s financial ‘dashboards’ like Mint.com or Betterment, which allow you to integrate your financial data from various banks, credit cards, and investment services to manage everything in one place. Now, apply this to healthcare. So, instead of having to visit a provider to find out what’s up with your health, your information comes to you alongside personalized content and recommendations for lifestyle, medication, and disease management.
Of course, this prediction raises a million questions about clinical accuracy, data privacy, interoperability, and shifting business models — not to mention the referral process and role of providers.
Will AI replace doctors?
So — where will healthcare providers play in this brave new world? Today, at-home health data is largely focused on a handful of vital signs. But tomorrow, when blockchain makes it possible for your watch, refrigerator, treadmill, toilet, air purifier and every other imaginable data-creator plus EMRs to all connect … and AI allows for you to receive actionable health recommendations in real-time based on your health data … what will the role of providers be?
Today, primary care is the front door to health systems. Not too far in the future, a patient’s first step may well be an AI doctor. In that kind of world — what will referrals look like? Will we need fewer primary care physicians? Who will help consumers understand their health data — and ensure clinical accuracy? And what happens to health systems’ role in the space?
While AI will not replace physicians — and certainly not by 2030 — machine learning and health data will absolutely enable patients to self-manage their health, creating new entry points into the healthcare system.
(Side-note: The irony that Nicolaus Copernicus was wrong about a heliocentric universe is not lost on us … we’re making predictions for the next decade, after all. And we’d love to hear your thoughts — do you agree with this vision for the future?)
Implications for today and tomorrow
For health brands, a future where the Copernican Consumer prevails is both scary and exciting. As a consumer, the opportunities for better control over your health are endless. As a marketer, the implications for today’s business models are overwhelming.
Here are three things that healthcare marketers can do today to prepare for a future in which the Copernican Consumer prediction comes true:
Be the consumer’s voice in your organization
While clinicians are intimately familiar with patients’ medical needs, marketers should know their many audiences’ interests, lifestyles, digital behavior, and desires for the overall consumer experience.
Marketers have a critical role to play over the coming decade in advocating for consumers’ expectations as the industry shifts —and in guiding your organization to consider that future today.
Advocate for data ownership
As noted by the Prime Minister of India at the 2018 World Economic Forum, “Whoever acquires and controls the data will have hegemony in the future.” Put simply: whoever controls the data can shape the world.
As health tech advancements continue, we may ultimately see mergers and acquisitions that yield one or a few big players who ‘own’ massive amounts of health data. Today, the majority of health data lives in EHRs, but that may not be the case tomorrow. What is your organization doing today to create better data interoperability — and to leverage data from multiple sources for actionable health recommendations? Are there partnerships that could be explored?
Simplify health for your audience
In a Copernican Consumer future, gone will be the days where complicated lab results must be translated by physicians. Startups like Humanity are popping onto the scene, which simplify users’ health status into a simple score. Humanity promises to slow down, or even reverse aging, through an “H score” which measures your biological age. Oura Ring provides a sleep score every morning, turning sleeping into a game. Lumen’s CO2 meters provide a score so you can “hack your metabolism.” And for Apple Watch users, “closing your rings” every day has become an important (and sometimes impossible) goal.
Whether these simple measures are clinically significant is debatable, but that doesn’t really matter — they train consumers to expect health to be simpler. Consumers will increasingly expect to understand and control their own health, and that must start with how we communicate to patients today — from marketing communications to clinical experiences and beyond.
The healthcare industry has long touted the importance of patient- and consumer-centricity. In fact, we’ve probably all formed our own drinking games around these buzzwords. But the Copernican Consumer is bigger than that. It goes far beyond the role of traditional industry players (i.e., health systems, payers, and pharma) and truly places the patient at the center of their own health universe, with services and technology facilitating their personalized health experience. What healthcare organizations and their marketing teams do today to deliver personalized experiences will determine their market positioning tomorrow.
Until then, I’ll be on the hunt for my next health gadget.
Learn more about the Copernican Consumer — and four other predictions — by reading Joe Public 2030.