Back from vacation, I’m sitting down to write a post that has been running through my head for a while now. I’m going to try to explain as much as possible quickly in this short space. This time, I’m drawing from one of the fields I work in: the healthcare sector and technology applied there.
Over the past months, I’ve witnessed debates among experts who believe that the eHealth sector has hit a wall, while others think it’s just the beginning and that there is still a lot to do, to analyze and to implement in order to truly get it off the ground and make it the revolution people hope it can be. I’m more inclined to believe the latter, although I understand the motivations of the former. I’m not going to discuss technological developments or medical advances in this post (there are already very, very good medical personnel and developers working on that) although they are closely linked to the topic at hand: the extent to which technological solutions are adhered to in the healthcare arena and the development of business models that are real, valid and, if possible scalable (fully or partially) to different realities (contexts).
As I am Socratic by nature, I’ll start off with a question: would you pay for this solution/product? Because, in my mind, the most important issues behind launching new technological solutions in the healthcare arena (and others) are user adherence levels, in this case not only patients but all the components of the value chain (also known as stakeholders), and business models, both for private initiatives and public health systems. To simplify, the Holy Trinity at the core of my reasoning in terms of the relationship between technology and healthcare is as follows:
- Users and adherence levels. This is a topic I’ve covered often on this blog, spoken about and shared contents on: how to get users to use and not prematurely discontinue use of the solutions. And I’ve spoken at great length on the need to study users (employing several techniques from social research, exploiting both quantitative data and qualitative analysis), for proper design derived from the insights taken from that study, along with ongoing interaction between selected groups of users and analysis of their surroundings. This work can be done on a macro level or on a smaller scale: the important thing is to know the target audience, what you have to offer them and to include them in the process throughout. This normally makes users trust more in the solutions, as they adapt to their real needs.
- Developing business models, monetizing the solution, defining the environment in which the solutions will be developed. This is another key point, which includes understanding the complexities of the healthcare system in each country, as well as defining which sectors, in addition to the purely technological ones, may, or already do, play a part in business development. For example, as is already happening, pharmaceutical companies play an important role in defining and developing eHealth solutions, but there are also other sectors that, sooner or later, will join (or are already doing so) arenas related to health and wellbeing, contributing solutions with a high technological component.
- Developing a legal framework in line with and adapted to data protection requirements (both in terms of privacy and data that may be used by third parties). It’s no secret that in the healthcare sector this often means extremely sensitive data. Of course there are already regulations to this end, although I understand they must be developed much further and that this will happen as user needs, technology and user acceptance of this technology evolves. Plus, knowledge regarding which data users should and shouldn’t hand over and what it is used for also further empowers users, thus boosting their trust in and use of these solutions.
Paying attention to and developing these three points, in my point of view, can make a difference in creating a solid base on which to develop, implement and market solutions for health and wellbeing and in bridging the currently existing gap between hyper-development of apps, gadgets, etc. that has come about in a highly fragmented way and the real needs of a much more complex system that is interconnected with other systems and variables. This means going from a market of gadgets and apps to one that provides real solutions and services.