For most people, healthcare is challenging to navigate. Disparities in treatment are real, misinformation adds complexity, and patients often struggle to feel supported. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought these challenges to light in new ways and shown just how difficult it can be to stay on a path to wellness.
Throughout our daily lives, brands across industries employ data to inform and personalize our experiences—Starbucks remembers our orders and knows when we’re near the closest coffee shop; the Delta Airlines app helps us maneuver busy airports and remembers that we like the aisle seat. Algorithms tailor our Spotify playlists and American Express monitors our shopping habits and protects us against fraud. Waze and Google Maps guide us through crowded highways and public transportation labyrinths around the world.
These companies are creating new uses for data every day to drive better business outcomes and deliver more personalized experiences. Why don’t we see the same ingenuity in the use of health data? The stakes are as high as they come; in healthcare, data can bring so much more than claims processing, it has the potential to fuel unprecedented health outcomes.
Lack of data isn’t the problem
There are more than 60,000 pharmacies in the United States alone. Every pill of every prescription for every patient is recorded in a standard data format. The healthcare providers writing these prescriptions work across more than 230,000 practices and hospitals. Every patient diagnosis, procedure, lab test, injection, and infusion are also recorded as standardized data. And as telehealth usage increases, and wearables and smart devices find their way to our wrists, pockets, and bodies, exponentially more data related to our health is created and stored.
In all of these scenarios, the data quality is as near to perfect as possible—if a pharmacist or physician gets it wrong, the consequences can be devastating. So, why are we not doing more with these rich data sources to keep people on the path to wellness?
In verticals outside health, consumer data is used to customize experiences and, in turn, drive loyalty and engagement. These customized experiences turn brands like Starbucks, Delta, and Spotify into our preferred options for coffee, travel, and music.
We enjoy coffee, we look forward to travel, and we love music—and more data allows brands to tailor and enhance our experiences. However, in healthcare, more data has generally come to mean more illness and diminished personal experience. Nobody enjoys navigating health insurance or looks forward to a hospital stay or sick day. But, what if the same thinking that goes into “how you like your coffee” is used to deliver a better healthcare experience?
Adopting a coordinated approach
Healthcare organizations already have detailed data that represents patient and healthcare provider behavior, the negotiated plans of their health insurers, their pharmacy benefit managers, and more. It’s not a new concept to use this kind of data to inform healthcare interventions.
However, by harnessing everything we now know about data technology, machine learning, AI and behavior change to bear against patient lab results, prescriptions, diagnoses, shopping habits, income, education, and lifestyle, we are able to understand the social determinants of health that predict behavior and outcomes. Together, this provides a truly multi-dimensional understanding of who someone is and what they need. We can then, if authorized, bundle the right product and service offerings for where they are right now in their journey.
Take a Type 2 Diabetes patient as an example. The most commonly prescribed treatment is supposed to be taken every day. The data tells us that—sadly—less than half of the prescribed medication is ever filled by patients. But prescription data only tells part of the story. Social determinants of health along with so much other data can help us explain why—location, income, beliefs, etc. And when we understand what triggers are needed for different patient types, we can do an infinitely better job adapting tactics and communications to address patients’ unique needs. Whether financial, emotional, or peer-to-peer support, a coordinated data approach unlocks entirely new capabilities for customization, content, and personalized experiences that put patients on the path to wellness.
From “point of care” to “point of connection”
It’s been said that a ZIP code can carry more weight on someone´s health outcomes than their genetic code—our geography, income, lifestyle, and more shape the way we interact with our world. And consumer data tied to these social determinants are in many cases deployed to deliver more personalized experiences with everything from coffee shops to airlines.
As healthcare moves from “point-of-care” to “point-of-connection,” consumer-patients are interacting with their health in new ways—through telemedicine, apps, social media support groups, and more. Pharmacies like Walgreens are opening clinics in their stores, bringing new ways to enhance the patient experience to serve essential needs under one roof as well as other channels. All of these new touchpoints can provide meaningful opportunities for brands and providers to use data to build personalized, patient-centric experiences.
Data, at its core, is about people, and people are more than their diagnoses or prescription claims. The transformation of healthcare—and a healthier world—starts by reimagining how we use data to give people the inspiration and motivation to take control of their health.
Susan Manber is the Chief Patient Officer at Publicis Health and Dave Nussbaum is the Chief Data Officer at Publicis Health