Posted: November 29, 2017

With the precipitous rise of the wearable technology market, there's been debate about whether such devices are actually effective in improving the health of patients, and whether patients will be willing to use them in routine care. A new survey from Ericsson, however, shows that a majority of consumers now view wearables as key to achieving better health: 62% believe that wearables will help put them in control of their health, while 60% agree that wearables will help them lead a healthier lifestyle.

Despite this, the survey also confirmed that consumers are still frustrated by a lack of personalized care from providers. "Consumers are no longer satisfied with being passive — patients are demanding quick, personalized attention," said the researchers.

Given consumers' increased willingness to both engage with wearables and provide personal data to support its use (3 in 5 consumers are willing to share data with a central repository if it helps improve health services), wearables may become crucial for bridging this gap in personalization and enhancing the patient-provider relationship. The success of that effort, however, will depend on the content that providers are able to push from these devices.

What Does Wearable Content Marketing Look Like?

Wearables come in many shapes and sizes — from fitness-tracking smart watches, to glucose, heart rate, and sleep monitors, to augmented reality headsets — which means that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to wearable content marketing. What they have in common, however, is their potential to engage consumers in an immediate, personal way. Here are some effective examples of what this engagement can and will look like.

Alerts, reminders, and interventions: Wearable content can be especially effective in helping patients manage their care. Push notifications can, for example, remind patients when to take their medications, alert them when their blood-glucose levels or heart rate deviate from normal ranges, or encourage them to keep up with a daily fitness program. Such notifications can help to "gamify" the patient experience, rewarding patients with virtual points and achievements for healthy behavior.

Wearables may soon be able to detect the onset of medical conditions and help to prevent them. A decline in a patient's routine activity levels combined with a raised heart rate may signal a coming infection, for instance; providers could then intervene, sending the user wellness tips to get them back on a track to health. If a wearable detects a serious or emergency medical condition — cardiac arrest or insulin shock, for instance — it could alert medical providers while providing immediate care instructions to the user.

Audio content: The small screen sizes of many wearables (think personal fitness trackers) will limit the possibilities of visual content. As a result, audio content will become more relevant than ever (the steady growth of podcasts signals as much). Providers, through live audio conferences or recordings, can provide direct consultations to patients, guide them through rehabilitation routines, or even explain instructions to caregivers administering treatment. Moreover, providers can create podcast-like audio content, sending consumers everything from panel discussions covering general interest topics to specific advice tailored to individual diagnoses.

Immersive experiences: With technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) continually improving, providers will increasingly use enhanced experiences to improve patient engagement and care. VR headsets are already being used to enable families, caregivers, and even providers to "experience" the effects of aging and Alzheimer's, improving their understanding of disease and hence their ability to interact with patients. Meanwhile, such technologies are also being used to treat paranoia by immersing patients in virtual social situations to help them "re-learn" that a situation is safe. Providers will increasingly need to use immersive environments and creative storytelling in this way, helping to deepen patients' experience of care while greatly improving general education and understanding of diagnoses.

Crafting Personal Care

While the use of wearable content remains in its relative infancy, it's clear that it will have a critical role in improving engagement — especially as 58% of consumers agree that feedback and alerts from wearables will provide the personalized care they seek. Moreover, as providers can collect patient data from wearable devices (with consent), they can continually improve upon their wearable content efforts; sending patients notifications when they're most likely to respond during the day or tailoring messaging to individual fitness levels and care plans are both ways to drive engagement.

Ultimately, the goal of engaged, personalized care is to put patients in charge of their health — putting wearable content literally in patients' hands represents a giant step forward in helping patients accomplish their health goals.

Want more insight into engaging modern healthcare consumers? Read our white paper, Healthcare Consumer Engagement in 2017.