How consumers are becoming more empowered about their health


17 Mar 2020239 Views

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Forrester’s Anjali Lai discusses how advances in tech have led to a more empowered consumer when it comes to their health.

The Covid-19 outbreak has undoubtedly cast a long shadow over the media, business, and consumer conversation. The story is not only one of gloom and doom. As people take precautions to safeguard against risk and contain threats in this moment, a bigger-picture look at today’s empowered customers reminds us that consumers are more resourceful, plugged in and driven to find solutions than they were even 10 or 20 years ago.

For more than two decades, we’ve been measuring customer empowerment. While healthcare has been one of the slower industries to respond to shifting consumer behaviours, given that it’s bound by strict regulation and buffered by limited competition, our latest data shows that empowered consumers are demanding more from their healthcare providers and are attracted to a vibrant crop of healthcare start-ups that promise a new standard of customer experience.

Today, empowered patients strategically harness digital tools and personal technologies to make smarter decisions to improve their health and wellbeing.

Willingness to experiment

Empowered customers are open to piloting new brands and products. Last year, we hit a tipping point where 56pc of US online adults revealed a voracious appetite for novelty.

The novelty appeal applies to personal health, too: 62pc of US consumers are willing to try out non-standard healthcare services to enhance their wellbeing such as sleep monitoring, mindfulness practices or customised medical treatments.

Device usage

Empowered customers reach for sophisticated devices that enhance productivity and efficiency. Twenty years ago, the majority of US online adults didn’t yet have a PC.

Today, in addition to plugging in to multiple devices, more than 20pc of consumers are already interested in using emerging technologies such as a smart blood-pressure monitor, smart bathroom scale or smart speakers to manage their health.

Digital/physical integration

The more empowered the customer, the more they need a combination of physical and digital experiences to feel satisfied. Mobile health activities blur the line between online and offline and create the expectation for seamless integration of the two.

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Around one-tenth of consumers rely on their smartphone to research local doctors, find a nearby pharmacy, track food or schedule health appointments.

Information savviness

The empowered customer’s media diet is expanding. The impulse for knowledge and control means that consumers increasingly turn to online content to teach themselves about their health.

45pc of US online adults say they learn about their health by conducting personal research online, compared to 35pc who learn through interactions with healthcare professionals.

Self-efficacy

Empowered customers seek out brands that act as a partner in accomplishing their goals. One member of our ConsumerVoices market research online community says she chooses health-management mobile apps “that keep me on target with my goals and that offer me motivational support along the way”.

The continued rise of the empowered patient with the expanding availability of technology creates new business opportunities and customer-obsessed leaders outside of the healthcare industry such as Amazon and Apple are reaping the rewards.

This means that people in the healthcare industry, from business leaders to primary care providers, must prioritise customer understanding and customer experience with the same eagerness and empathy that fuel today’s best-in-class innovators.

By Anjali Lai

Anjali Lai is a senior analyst with Forrester, helping chief marketing officers navigate a market fuelled by the ever-evolving consumer.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Forrester blog.