A few decades ago, a visit to the doctor’s office was something that happened in relative isolation. You went, got a check-up, and got orders to quit smoking or eat better—but no one had any idea what you were up to until the next time you showed up. Much the same way no one had a clue what style of jeans you were considering buying beyond the mall salesperson who helped find your size.
No longer. Next-generation health-care systems, much like Continuous Commerce practices, embrace the multi-channel reality of our lives through a complex mix of disparate health-care providers to create continuous and seamless experiences.
The results are eerily similar to Continuous Commerce done right: a dynamic system of coordinated care centered on one constant throughout the journey—the patient—and focused on a singular common goal—positive outcomes. Just like the way an eCommerce-focused business is geared to create great experiences for consumers.
After products like the Nike+ Fuelband and Fitbit exploded the healthy-activity sector, the health-care industry was quick to follow, even lead the way, in integrated devices. Through cloud-based service platforms like 2net, hundreds of medical devices can be connected to form a continuous picture of the patient journey. That data is then analyzed to correlate seemingly disparate variables, such as hours of sleep and caloric intake.
Here’s how one such hypothetical journey might play out. Fitbit monitors your daily activity and sleep efficiency at night. As you wake, your phone updates your contextual calendar to make sure you leave in time to compensate for traffic on your way to your appointment, which was collaboratively coordinated by doctors and healthcare providers. Location-based services, which understand you haven’t left home yet, alert you and your care network if you’re not going to make it in time.
Just before showering you step on an iHealth scale to log your weight, body fat, lean mass, muscle mass, bone mass, body water, body-mass index, and visceral fat rating. Doing this daily has established a solid trend line. While you’re getting dressed, you use a glucose monitor, pulse oximeter, and blood-pressure cuff which, like all your other health trackers, wirelessly link to your in-home 2net hub feeding into a secure cloud portal in real time.
Accessing the portal is easy because the simple interface transforms data into simplified charts. Professional alerts note sudden weight loss or gain, low glucose, or high blood pressure. You can also set independent goals, like losing that last five pounds before the holidays, and receive progress alerts or badges.
Also feeding the portal are third-party smartphone apps. Although gamified interfaces make staying healthy fun, they are also hugely valuable in terms of helping people adhere to their medical plans. A bluetooth pillbox monitors how and where your medications are stored. Streaming videos can give you instructions if needed, but since you were away and skipped a dose, the system has detected this and alerted you about how to handle the situation. Since it was just one dose the device won’t notify your doctor, but two would mean you’d receive a phone call from a nurse.
Meal-time apps like Weight Watchers track your caloric intake, and your Hapifork, which you initially thought was a gag gift, reminds you to eat slower. You notice you need milk and log it on a list. After a light meal, it’s time to track your morning walk and post a social merit badge for five consistent days. So far you’re winning the mileage contest with a friend you met online, but she’s close behind so every mile counts. On the walk home you stroll by Starbucks for a reward. The geofencing healthy-eating alert likes to pop up and flag you as you approach the building, reminding you to eat healthy the rest of the day.
By now it’s time for your appointment, and your daughter has come to pick you up. Because the technology is ubiquitous, another smartphone can take over for the 2net hub while you’re away. This is good, because you are wearing a MC10 seamless sensing “tattoo” to track heart rate, temperature, and hydration while on the go.
Arriving at the doctor is a lot easier than it used to be. Thanks to EMR, tests done yesterday have already been uploaded and analyzed. High-resolution imagery can be sent to a panel of experts around the world for a second opinion or consult in just a few clicks. Smart forms within the EMR system help track symptoms over time, make recommendations, and flag allergies or potentially dangerous combinations of medications. Though your actual time with the doctor may seem shorter, it’s far more productive.
On the way home you swing by the pharmacy for your medication. Rather than rely on a scribbled-on scrap of paper, your doctor drops your prescription electronically, so it’s filled and ready by the time you arrive. As you walk in a proximity sensor triggers on your shopping list, reminding you to pick up milk.
At any point our health-care journey can change directions. Much like we previously waited until we entered a store to make a purchase, historically we delayed diagnosis and treatment until we saw a doctor. Sometimes this was a problem: conditions like high cholesterol and heart disease may not be noticed until they caused problems.
Much like Continuous Commerce, health care is no longer about any singular moment in time or place. It is everywhere we are, and it has many moments of truth. Continuous care is about understanding the moments that matter and acting on them. There is much that marketers can study here and apply to other facets of a fully wired, customer-centered world.