Interesting guest post by Dr. Noel Carroll, Research Lead, Data Team, ARCH

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Over the past couple of years, there have been growing concerns around the dependency we continue to place on technology and the possible anxieties resulting in such dependencies. For example, the smartphone is ubiquitous, addictive and transformative in many aspects of our lives. Therefore, it is not surprising that smartphone continues to be one of the core enabling technologies that healthcare technologists choose to provide healthcare services, for example, healthcare app solutions. However, ensuring that the technology is used and that there is a high retention rate of users of your software solution can be challenging and requires some focus on the incentives or value creation of Connected Health solutions.

Why? Who cares? Well, I continue to read about the growth in healthcare technology and really enjoy learning about the emergence of new ideas, markets and ultimately novel solutions. In fact, there is a great buzz round innovation and entrepreneurship – developing solutions for unmet needs.

I had an interesting experience recently (which I could immediately relate to the healthcare industry). We are all aware of the significant increase in motor insurance costs over the past year. Last year I had a fully comprehensive motor insurance policy for €480. This year, I received quotes ranging from €1,400 (same insurer), €950, €605….. and €500. Given the difference and the rising costs, I was naturally drawn to the €500 policy option – which came with a difference. To avail of the €500 motor insurance policy, I had to download the company’s mobile app and agree to have my driving behaviour monitored and rated or scored. Admittedly, I was a little concerned that this would involve a very strict driving assessment criteria but I learned that the policy could not increase but could only decrease (i.e. cash refunded) if my driving behaviour was deemed ‘safe’. This was a fascinating concept. Over the past 600 miles, I am scoring between 85-96% and I have become more conscious of my driving (times, acceleration, speed, etc.). It has encouraged me to become a better driver. In fact, it has almost become a game which has its rewards based on my behaviour (i.e. a safer driver and saving money!!!).

So what? How does this relate to healthcare…..??

We can learn from other industries! Imagine a similar solution in a healthcare context? If I was to become more active and changed my lifestyle, diets and overall behaviour, could this reduce my health insurance costs if I was deemed ‘healthier’ using a Connected Health solution? It would be great to reward consumers by improving their health and really incentivise healthcare through reduced healthcare costs and possible healthcare interventions (for example, advice on activity or diets). I watched an excellent TedTalk recently by Seth Godin on ‘how to get your ideas to spread’ who described the need to get noticed in a crowded marked by developing ‘remarkable’ solutions. He explains that when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. Within a healthcare context, we need to carefully reconsider what is the problem to which technology is the solution?

Connecting everyone and everything is almost an expectation nowadays, for example, the Internet of Things. Thus, Connected Health also provides new healthcare provision models and with ‘value-based’ healthcare now becoming the mantra of all stakeholders involved, new ways of providing healthcare and tracking outcomes is a rapidly growing industry. Data is a key resource here. It influences behaviour and informs decisions. For example, during the Olympics, I recall reading an article based on one of the high performance coaches who described their team strategies. He described how data has now become a more powerful source rather than performance enhancements – a fascinating insight yet one that we should consider in the wider healthcare sector and the need for healthcare informatics and data-driven decisions in healthcare innovation and medicine management.

If we continue to design healthcare solutions as a market share growth strategy, we will miss the opportunity to develop something remarkable and the chances are it will have little impact on healthcare. We will focus on the solution rather than the problem. Technology can become a burden on users rather than a tool which incentivises its use and improves user behaviour to lead a healthier lifestyle. I have personally bought a number of wearable devices which I discarded after a short period due to the lack of data analytics or incentives to improve my lifestyle. They became a burden to use and offered me very little in return (except displaying the time!!). For example, learning about my sleeping patterns offers me little insight on how I can change my behaviour? However, if we are brave and truly examine the problem to which technology is the solution, then we can begin to investigate the real problem, removing any preconceptions related to software solutions (…and what the solution should be or should ‘look like’) and learn about the opportunities that we often fail to see based on users experiences and pain-points. Perhaps, as a first step Design Thinking offers us the tools to understand processes, problems and pain points – which highlight possible incentives to improve healthcare and self-management.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this work with you and collaborate on developing this work within a Connected Health context across various healthcare service environments (feel free to contact me at: [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @NoelCarroll5 and stay ‘connected!!’

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Check out the ARCH website for more information about Noel’s research interests.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Applied Research for Connected Health or UCD. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at anytime and without notice.


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