After returning from the Partners’ Connected Health Symposium this past week, I have a few thoughts on how web/mobile/social media is changing the way consumers interact with healthcare:
- Social media - patientslikeme already demonstrated that patient-reported data from a user base that is highly engaged is valuable, and that there can be a real business model from data analytics, clinical trials recruitment etc. What made it work? First is engagement. Chronic disease patients are more incentivized to learn about and improve their conditions, because they identify with it and therefore are more active in these online support communities. Second is high patient value, and therefore higher value lead-gen opportunities with pharma and researchers who want to target those patients. Third is proprietary data and analytics that can be created, such as ability to analyze whether certain medications actually made an impact on treating the disease, adjusting for the natural progression of the disease.
- Mobile / sensors - GreenGoose takes an interesting approach of making wireless sensors very cheap and in the form of stickers, so they can be applied to physical items such as toothbrushes, bicycles, frisbees etc to allow passive tracking of activity data. Passive is the key, it doesn’t all have to be coming from smart-phone based apps, it just has be easy and low friction for users. Fitbit is another example, offering a device+subscription model to help users track, analyze and compare their activity levels. Zeo is doing the same, but for sleep - they call themselves the WeightWatchers of sleep. Mobile and sensors adds granularity to data which creates more frequent engagement that in turn drives greater value in consumer applications. There was a talk during the conference by Rosalind Picard who founded Affectiva, an MIT Media lab spinout that uses a device called the Q sensor to measure skin conductance which is an emotional indicator — it turns out that the data collected by the device can be used as a real-time predictor of the onset of seizures. Separately, Picard’s research group has also developed an algorithm for measuring vital signs of a person such as heartbeat through just an ordinary web cam, bypassing body sensors entirely.
- Making information available to consumers - very simple concept, but still not the norm in healthcare. Starting with doctor’s appointment times online, which ZocDoc has gotten traction in offering to consumers - the business model there is bringing new patients to doctors and helping doctors optimize scheduling of patients (and thereby optimizing revenue / reducing lost revenue). How about cost information around health procedures and doctor visits? Castlight is doing it from the employer-sponsored health plan angle. 160M people in the US are covered via their employers’ health plans, so employers are an important stakeholder as well as a go-to-market channel. As the world is moving more towards high deductible plans, consumers will be more incentivized to shop around and price compare when it comes to healthcare. lifeIMAGE is applying cloud data storage (dropbox-style) to medical imaging, allowing patients and physicians to access X-Ray, MRI etc images online - the interface is simple, it looks and feels like email. Integrating hospital ratings, performance data (i.e. mortality rates), doctor ratings, etc will become standard feature in many consumer facing health apps.