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Consumerism in Healthcare Is About More Than Access

Chronic diseases affect approximately half of the US population, cause 7 in 10 deaths, and account for roughly 86% of US health care expenditure

The emergence of retail healthcare in centers like Amazon, CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens attests to consumerism’s impact on how patients have come to seek health services. These retail giants are adept at providing convenient access to care, but consumerism is also about speaking to the individual consumer, which in health translates to personalized care. 

Moved to action by patients as consumers (‘patient consumers’), and overcoming the “last mile problem”, innovators are developing assistive technologies designed to optimize personalized patient care and even keep that care within the framework of one’s trusted healthcare provider without creating additional legwork for that healthcare provider. Just as service providers in travel, retail and finance have adopted technologies that enable more personalized services, healthcare consumerism is shifting towards higher-quality care to fulfill individual needs. 

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For example, chronic disease patients struggle to maintain even a 50 percent rate of adherence to their medical recommendations. Numerous factors contribute to non-adherence rates and are as varied as the patients themselves. They include associated medication experience, disease-related limitations, and even basic trust in the treatment itself. Patients are struggling with embedding the ongoing management of their chronic disease into their day-to-day lives.  

Patients have become savvy consumers and know they have options. The implications of chronic illness (on top of managing work, family, and the rest of the daily grind) are challenging and never-ending, and as people want to feel like persons, not patients, technologies that assist with life-disease balance are of huge value from both people’s experience and clinical perspectives. 

When innovators bridge the gap between increased access to care and access to personalized care, they inspire products and services that speak to a broader ecosystem, encouraging health in addition to merely treating illness. They also earn the trust of patients and healthcare providers alike.

Consumerism that is focused on increased patient engagement is augmented further by the fact that such engagement, when embraced by patients, increases the likelihood of positive health outcomes. (AI)-based technologies enable automated tailoring of treatment plans to patient personalities, behavior patterns and routines. These technologies motivate long-lasting behavioral change, turning previously insurmountable journeys into manageable, step-by-step processes marked by reachable goals. 

Increasing demand for consumer-driven healthcare is encouraging innovators to develop targeted interventions that account for what works best for the individual, ensuring that programs stay clear of cookie-cutter strategies. This is vital, as both care and the tone of voice needed to prompt this care are likely far different for a 68-year-old male with diabetes than they are for a 36-year-old female with chronic heart disease.   

Healthcare consumerism is experiencing a wave of engagement and empowerment-focused tools that are improving patient oversight. By actualizing hyper-personalization across individuals’ healthcare journeys, these tools are meeting the needs of the whole person and integrating in-person and remote healthcare solutions in a holistic way. Such technology is helping overcome significant challenges in healthcare around the world, including widespread patient non-adherence among people with chronic conditions.

Yossi Bahagon, Chairman of Sweetch, has over 20 years’ experience in digital health. He is the founder of several successful digital health start-ups, previously having founded & led the digital health division of the second largest health maintenance organization globally. Additionally, Yossi founded a venture fund dedicated to digital health. 

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