Unlock unique consumers and unique opportunities
The sets of technologies people use are now so integrated into their lives that they have become a part of their identities. Data captured in the digital and physical worlds, along with related data sets (e.g. demographics, sociographics), can converge to create a technology identity for an individual. Healthcare leaders can use people’s technology identities to create a new generation of offerings and experiences.
The digital revolution introduced technology identities as part of an emerging feedback loop, one that first began to show potential via personalisation efforts. Thanks to ecosystem connections, healthcare organisations are increasingly using these identities to deliver more personalised and individualised services. For instance, Kinsa’s connected thermometers let customers track their fevers via a smartphone app; Clorox paid to license the information, using it to direct ads to US ZIP codes where people had more fevers (and potentially more need for disinfecting wipes). No personally identifying information was ever shared.1 Now, in the post-digital era, organisations have greater opportunity to use technology identities and insights to shift from one-off transactions to ongoing customised relationships with individualised experiences.
When healthcare organisations gain the ability to create one-to-one relationships with individual healthcare consumers, they become each individual person’s ongoing, trusted healthcare partner. Organisations will achieve this by understanding the technology people use and how they use it, creating the insights needed to integrate seamlessly into the person’s life.
Who are we serving?
Healthcare has an ongoing data stream from medical records, technology devices, claims, past preferences for services, biology and more. This data is the cornerstone of delivering personalised healthcare on a person’s own terms.
Think of the possibilities for personalised medicine with the help of genetic sequencing. The human genome comprises more than three billion DNA pairs. The genome can be used to identify abnormalities, genetic variants, disorders and more within a matter of hours. Clinicians can interpret the genomic data to target interventions and therapies for that individual.2
Imagine if a healthcare provider has a “digital phenotype” for every patient3—one snapshot that captures indirect healthcare data from technology-based interactions (e.g. online search history, app usage, social posts) and correlates it with health events. The digital phenotype has the potential to help providers predict health-related behaviours and risks and also diseases for that person and others like them.
For example, a multinational technology company partnered with an academic medical center to examine the health relatedness of searches in the remote past and within seven days of an emergency room visit. Interestingly, more than half of those who participated in the study had searched online for content related to their chief complaint within the week prior to their emergency room visit.4 By tapping into people’s digital phenotypes, providers and other allied health organisations can anticipate needs and intervene with care at the time of need, potentially preventing an emergency room visit.
Healthcare startup Ginger.io years ago began studying the potential of passively connecting data from an individual’s smart phone to ultimately create a personal health profile. Healthcare and academic leaders quickly began piloting the technology to monitor and support mental health patients with digital interventions, to identify post-operative patients that require the most follow-up care and to predict the pain levels of patients with arthritis.5 Now, the Ginger.io app is using data to provide virtual mental healthcare the moment patients need it via coaches and clinicians.
Imagine if providers could use a person’s digital identity to deliver care in context—even beyond traditional location-dependent care settings. When shopping, an app could tell a person with chronic lung disease (i.e. COPD) that it’s time to sit down and take a break. When walking into a restaurant, a mobile alert would inform the individual of healthy meal selections to consider on the menu. Each environment provides an opportunity to use those moments that occur to add value in context of health.
Clearly technology identity presents amazing potential for detecting the need for care at home (or on the go) and delivering care where and when people need it, but it also has some pitfalls when it comes to capturing information while maintaining individual privacy.
Trust is the foundation
There is a gap in expectation between how healthcare is delivered today and how patients think it should be.6 People want their needs met, but they also want control over their privacy preferences. And as healthcare organisations strive to meet these needs, they must understand that the line between “useful” and “creepy” will vary for each person.
Technology can allow healthcare enterprises to maintain ongoing, experience-driven relationships with individual consumers in ways that were impossible before. But the possibilities come with new ambiguity and complexity—tailoring offerings and experiences to the individual also means figuring out just how much tailoring to do in the first place.
Among them, healthcare organisations must recognise that there are times when consumers want more technology in their lives, but also times when they do not want it at all. Understanding this dynamic is critical to successfully creating ongoing, intensely individualised relationships with consumers.
Healthcare organisations across the ecosystem must proactively take steps to earn trust with consumers by being clear about their intentions related to data privacy, data stewardship and consent. These steps include making sure data is clean and its origin is known. Physical devices must have proper security embedded. Products and services must be designed with privacy in mind. When organisations make privacy a priority and communicate the actions taken, they will build trust and loyalty among increasingly discerning healthcare consumers.
Mental health care meets smartphone
Mindstrong uses artificial intelligence and remote monitoring to continuously measure cognitive function and mood, allowing providers to detect changes and intervene at critical times. Digital phenotyping collects data from a user’s smartphone to provide measures of cognition and emotion. Mindstrong uses machine learning to identify which digital phenotyping features might be most useful to clinical assessment. The company has a patient-facing app that allows users to access help through their smartphones, and a provider-facing app that augments care models.
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1 “This Thermometer Tells Your Temperature, Then Tells Firms Where to Advertise;” The New York Times, October 23, 2018,
2 “The Rise of the Genome and Personalised Medicine;” The Royal College of Physicians, Clinical Medicine, December 17, 2017;
3 “The Digital Phenotype;” Nature Biotechnology, May 12, 2015;
4 “Google Search Histories of Patients Presenting to an Emergency Department: An Observational Study;” NCBI, February 20, 2019;
5 “Ginger.io is Working with UCSF, Duke, Partners on Diverse Pilots;” MobiHealthNews, November 6, 2014;
6 “Today’s Consumers Reveal the Future of Healthcare;” Accenture, February 10, 2019;