Revisiting Point of Care Marketing for Today’s Connected Consumer

Nov 12

A good friend of mine recently found out through an annual physical exam that she weighed ten pounds more than she had expected – pushing her into the overweight category. She knew she had been gaining weight but didn’t realize how much. This news catapulted her into action. What’s the first thing she did? Go online, of course: she searched for information on how to adjust her calorie intake to effectively lose weight and she looked for apps to help her do it. While I recognize that she is just one person who happens to be pretty “plugged in”, her experience reflects growing trends in healthcare. Many of us regularly turn to the Internet and our constantly accessible mobile devices to get the information that informs our health decisions and to manage our health on a day-to-day basis.

I recently attended the 2nd annual Point of Care National Conference, co-hosted by DTC Perspectives and PoC3, which focused on how to leverage point of care communications to drive patient and healthcare provider engagement—and ultimately improve patient outcomes. The PoC3 defines “point of care” as the healthcare setting or channel (doctor’s offices, hospitals, and pharmacies) in which communications are delivered through various forms (digital, video, and print). Think of the TV screens in the clinic waiting room or coupons in the pharmacy aisle. Yet the question swirling around the conference was this: is point of care really limited to the traditional health care setting or does it happen any time a person is making decisions about their health? With today’s connected consumers and the increasingly advanced and accessible technology used by providers and patients, thinking about where and how people get “care” is critical.

There are several key ways that technology is having an impact. Thinking about point of care in the traditional way, more and more people are using their phones (and other devices) to have virtual office visits with their health care providers. And telemedicine is not just for rural communities anymore. For example, as this recent article in The Washington Post describes, the UCLA Health System is offering virtual access to doctors via cellphone, computer, or tablet, bringing point of care into patients’ living rooms. In addition, down the line with meaningful use, more patients should have easy access to their electronic records and relevant health education materials through patient portals, and presumably easier, more frequent electronic correspondence with their providers.

Outside of the traditional point of care setting, our DIY culture for health certainly leverages technology. We have technology at our fingertips (or in our pockets/pocketbooks, as the case may be) that allows us to search for health information at the moment we need it, or get tools and tips to keep us on track when we are in the moment of temptation. For example, an app called Fooducate provides on-the-spot nutritional information—and alternative recommendations—for restaurant/fast food meals (e.g., is the Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich any better for you than the crispy chicken? The answer is no, actually…) as well as grocery store items (with a simple scan of the barcode). And people are turning to the hundreds of tracking tools related to what we eat, how much we sleep, how much we eA hand holding a mobile phone with a red cross symbolizing health on itxercise, etc.

Other technology includes wearables, which could bring health tracking and patient engagement to a whole new level. There is an interesting argument that wearables are currently being developed for the young and healthy to track fitness, rather than to people with chronic diseases who really need it to track health. Yet, from the Apple HealthKit to the new Stanford Center for Mobile Medical Technology, there seems to be a desire tap into wearables’ potential to provide real data down the line that can have a clinical impact. In addition, there are also really interesting case studies from companies like HealthPrize of use of gamification to help with medication adherence, where people get rewards (e.g., points, badges) for taking their medication as scheduled. The popularity and effectiveness of some of these tools—completely outside of the health care setting—is intriguing.

If these tracking and information seeking behaviors have an immediate and direct impact on our health behaviors, should we consider those interactions to be point of care?  And, if so, how does that impact marketing and communications efforts?  Has point a care become a “moment of need” rather than a moment in a health care setting?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 at 10:57 am and is filed under Behavior Change, Public Health, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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