Disruptor technology has landed an increasingly prolific place in healthcare organisations, yielding benefits that range from lowering the cost of care to increasing the effective utilisation of care providers, not to mention empowering to self-assess, self-analyse and proactively seek care when and where they need it.

For healthcare providers, effective consumer engagement models have become a means for survival, particularly in the private sector. With rising consumer expectations private healthcare providers must deploy solutions that enhance the customer experience and deliver value, in turn, building loyalty in customers and differentiating their business in a competitive customer-centric market.

Gartner puts it well in their 2018 primer for effective healthcare, stating,

“Engagement strategies must invest consumers in their own healthcare to educate, motivate, activate, empower and support their interactions with healthcare providers and payers” (Leveraging IT for Effective Healthcare Consumer, Member and Patient Engagement: Primer for 2018, 24 January 2018). The report continues to state, “With the convergence of technology, new engagement channels and new competitors in this space, payer and provider CIOs need to modernize their engagement approaches, become more innovative, partner more aggressively and seek the support of new service providers.” (Leveraging IT for Effective Healthcare Consumer, Member and Patient Engagement: Primer for 2018, 24 January 2018).

With most healthcare providers already harnessing electronic records and patient portals, if providers wish to compete they must think beyond the boundaries of what is already commonplace IT.

One way in which healthcare providers can achieve this is by taking advantage of wearable technology and mobile applications, empowering patients through the accountability of their own health on-the-go from their devices. These technologies represent a shift in the tableau of the healthcare industry, from a focus on the healthcare provider to a focus on the consumer’s maintenance of their own health and wellbeing. This new model focuses on inspiration and education.

The increased adoption of wearable technology which measures steps, heart rate, sleep patterns – and beyond – has made the opportunity to innovate readily accessible. As well as providing consumers with an interesting level of insight into their own health, the data gathered by these devices and presented through the lens of mobile applications are invaluable to healthcare providers. But how do healthcare providers keep consumers interested in this technology or moreover, drive better results?

A method already used by the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, and Nike apps involves gamification and socialisation. Consumers can race their friends, compete for badges and share their journey to health if desired. This collaborative approach to health, echoing the nuances of social media, challenge users to compete with the health goals of their most trusted friends or family. It’s this highly social, empowering and gamified experience that makes these apps so popular. So why don’t healthcare providers give it a crack?

If we put the patient-side benefits of a gamified journey to better health to one side, the business insight and potential for market differentiation is similarly multiplied. A social healthcare journey is a journey shared, likely on the internet. By connecting a hashtag or an automated mention to these shared experiences and monitoring through a tool such as Microsoft’s Social Listening, healthcare providers will be able to gauge the sentiment of customer experience whilst on their journeys to better health. Such information may even drive interface updates as needed. Dashboards generated by Microsoft Dynamics 365 can also give insight at a glance into user adoption and the progress of patients – all of which could be connected to the electronic patient record.

In order for healthcare providers to keep with the pace of customer expectations, they need to think beyond what’s already being implemented and learn from the success stories of their potential delivery partners. If healthcare providers begin to exploit the technology at their disposal, there will be an exciting time ahead for the industry and everyday users alike.